Cesana San Sicario , Italy , February 14. Olympic “rookies” Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) in 37th place and Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) in 48th place, topped veteran biathletes Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK), and Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) in 62nd and 80th places respectively, in today’s 10K Sprint competition at the Torino Olympic Winter Games. | Results
“We did not expect this from these two young guys,” commented Coach James Upham. “They are here for experience. There is no pressure for results, but here is Lowell skiing with Björndalen on the last lap and keeping up. Tim was just two places behind (Michael) Greis, who won the 20K on Saturday. He and Greis shot the same—three penalties. Tim can smell the World Cup Points (top 30 finishers), he is so close. Both of them are skiing great. We just need to work out their prone shooting before the Pursuit, because if you clean prone in the Pursuit, you rocket through the field. As fast as they are skiing, they both could do well.”
Both Burke and Bailey had three penalties today, on another perfect day for shooting: virtually no wind and clear skies. Burke in 37th was 2:16.2 behind the Gold Medalist Sven Fischer of Germany. Fischer was perfect on both the shooting range and the tracks, as he scored an 8.2 second victory over Halvard Hanevold of Norway. Frode Andresen, also of Norway, 19.7 seconds back, claimed Bronze.
The refrain from Burke was more upbeat than after he missed 7 shots in the 20K Individual. “It was better today. My skiing felt really good. Still, I never miss two standing shots, even in practice.”
Bailey, 2:50.2 back, skied well but missed the same number of targets as in the 20K. He commented, “I would have rather hit ten! I should have been more aggressive instead of trying to be perfect, and that does not work sometimes.” As far as his skiing, he added, “I felt as good as you can up here. It is always hard to compete at this altitude. Still, both Tim and I are excited about making the Pursuit.”
Along with the success of Burke and Bailey came the fact that Hakkinen and Teela, the number one and two US Biathletes for the past four years, did not make the field of 60 for the Pursuit.
Hakkinen came to Torino in the quest for the first Olympic medal in biathlon for the US. He took a giant step with his fast ski time and a 10th place in the 20K Individual. Today, in the event where he won a World Junior Championship in 1997, he probably had the “worst day of my career.” Coming to prone, he was skiing well as in the 20K. Everything seemed normal, but he missed all five prone shots! Getting up, he failed to pick up his rifle, stopped, dropped his glasses and skied to the penalty loop. There he skied six loops instead of five. “I was almost dazed after that and stopped thinking straight for a minute,” he said.
In standing, he looked like his normal confident self, clicking off four successive targets, before missing the final one. With six penalties on the day, he finished 80th, 5:10.6 back. Talking after the competition, Hakkinen just continued to shake his head and added, “I really do not know what happened. They all looked good. It could have been the trigger squeeze. Something was not right. This is the first time in my career this has ever happened. The other races, (Pursuit and Mass Start) all depended on a good Sprint. Now those are gone for these Games. It is amazing how fast things can change.”
Like Hakkinen, Teela, 62nd, four penalties, 3:21.1 back, was not feeling very happy as he took off his race bib. “I went for it on the shooting range. I tried to shoot with a faster cadence, not crazy, but faster and it did not work. I just went for it. I am really tired of being 61st or 62nd. Now, I will relax a bit and get ready for the relay. That is what I have left here at San Sicario.”
The two, lifelong friends, Burke and Bailey from upstate New York overwhelmed the veterans today. They both know it could have been them instead of Hakkinen and Teela. That s how biathlon goes; you can be the best one day, and fall to the bottom the next. The young guys will be looking over their shoulder in the next set of competitions. Neither Hakkinen nor Teela are ready for the rocking chair. They both still want those World Cup Points, some podium finishes, and those elusive medals.
The United States Biathlon Association is the National Governing Body for the sport of Biathlon in the United States as recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Biathlon Union. The US Biathlon Association supports the US Biathlon Team and development of the sport on all levels within the United States.