Cesana San Sicario , Italy , February 16. Rachel Steer (Anchorage, AK) was smiling today as she had a seasonal best 35th place in the Women’s 7.5K Sprint. | Results
Finishing in the sunshine after starting as moderate snow fell, Steer commented,”I had one prone penalty and shot clean on standing today. I definitely felt better than I did in the 15K. I felt like my skiing was better. My skis were great. Our wax men were working on my skis until two minutes before I started. They said the skis would be fast if it warmed up a bit and the tracks glazed.”
After more than 10 days of almost spring like weather, today finally looked like winter again. Wednesday evening was warmer than recent days. This warm air brought precipitation to the mountain areas northwest of Torino as Thursday dawned. Steady snow in the morning at San Sicario covered the brown patches of grass that edged the tracks. By the time half of the field of 84 started, it was back to spring, with sun and warming temperatures.
These were the conditions the US Wax technicians, Andreas Emslander and Bernd Eisenbichler anticipated. It was evident just after Steer started that she was moving well. Team Leader Tracy Lamb reported from out on the tracks that, “Rachel is really skiing well today. She looks great.”
With one penalty on the day, Steer finished 1:58.2 behind surprise Gold Medalist Florence Baverel-Robert of France. Baverel-Robert, always know as one of the best shots in biathlon, but not the fastest skier, edged the ex-cross-country skier Anna Carin Olofsson of Sweden by 2.4 seconds. Third went to another dark horse, Lilia Efremova of Ukraine, 6.6 seconds back. Baverel-Robert and Efremova shot clean while Olofsson had a single prone penalty.
Steer was optimistic after the finish, “I have not been at the level I was last year so far, so I hope is a change.” She will be starting Saturday’s 10K Pursuit competition within 40 seconds of 20th place. With another good shooting day, she could pick up another seasonal best, a personal Olympic best, and some World Cup Points. Steer’s personal Olympic best is 31st place in the 2002 Olympic Individual competition
The three other US women in today’s 7.5k Sprint did not fare as well as Steer. None of the three made the Pursuit field.
Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO) had two prone penalties, but had a fast clean standing stage today. Despite this solid shooting, she finished 71st, 4:16.5 back.
Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY), in 75th had four penalties in both the prone and standing stages, leaving her 4:59.2 back. Konrad will now move over to the Olympic cross-country team to prepare for competition next week.
Carolyn Treacy (Duluth, MN) made her Olympic debut today, finishing 80th, 5:47.3 back. Treacy had four penalties. She commented on her day, “My legs got really tight and by the time I shot standing, they were shaking a lot. I am lucky I only had two penalties there. Of course I am disappointed with my result, but as I was on the final downhill, I told myself, ‘this is the Olympics.’ My family was here and they were all thrilled. My mother made a joke, ‘At least you best your bib (#81)!’”
Treacy, along with Steer, and the Barnes sisters will compete in the Women’s Relay next Thursday.
Before then, Steer has a date at 2:30 CET on Saturday to see if she can get another seasonal best result, in the Women’s 10K Pursuit.
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.