Cesana San Sicario , Italy , February 25. Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) climbed back from his disappointing 80th in last week’s Olympic 10K Sprint to 13th in the Olympic 15K Mass Start, reasserting his position as one of the top biathletes in the world today. | Results
Exactly 2 weeks after his historic 10th place in the Olympic 20K Individual competition, Hakkinen almost topped that result. With two kilometers to go, he was in sixth position. Unfortunately, the soft snow conditions caused him to fatigue and he finished 13th, with his second top 15 finish of the Games, 1:09.6 behind Michael Greis of Germany. Greis topped Tomasz Sikora by 8.3 seconds and the legendary Ole Einar Björndalen by 12.3 seconds. Both Greis and Sikora had one penalty, while Björndalen had three. Hakkinen matched both Greis and Sikora, with a single standing penalty.
Fittingly, the day of the first ever Olympic Mass Start competitions, the venue here looked as new and fresh as the event, as over 20 centimeters of new snow fell over night and continued during the competition. The setting was picture postcard perfect for the spectators and television. The athletes, like Hakkinen and Sven Fischer of Germany would have preferred the icy hard tracks that prevailed earlier in the Games.
“These were not the best conditions for me today,” Hakkinen commented. “In the last loop, my legs were spent from the soft conditions and there was nothing I could do to hang on.”
A packed stadium of rabid biathlon fans from Germany, Norway, and Russia sent the 30 men over the five tough 3K loops of the San Sicario tracks. Hakkinen stayed out of trouble and cruised into point 29 for the first prone stage. Tension in the US camp was high as prone was his undoing in the Sprint. He shot steadily and cleaned, leaving in 14th position. After that stage, Coach Algis Shalna gave Hakkinen a shooting correction, which again sent emotions on high as he approached the second prone stage. Hakkinen passed with flying colors; clean and left in eighth position.
His first standing stage netted one penalty and he fell about 50 seconds off the pace to 13th position for the final standing stage. Hakkinen is a very confident of his standing shooting. He cleaned and there was excitement on the US radios, Hakkinen is leaving in 6th position!!! He is 15 seconds from third place. He held on for a kilometer and then started to slip. With 700 meters to go, he was still 10th. Coming into the tumultuous stadium, fatigue was etched on his face as Raphael Poiree of France passed him. Knowing how he felt, Hakkinen glanced over his shoulder to see if he was at least safe in 13th and crossed the finish line.
“I skied conservatively in the early part of the race today. I wanted to concentrate on the shooting. I knew that was the key. I was just trying to stay focused on the shooting range.”
Hakkinen walked away still dreaming of an Olympic medal, but after today he now has the top three US Olympic Biathlon results, with his 10th in the 20K, a 13th in the 12.5K Pursuit in 2002, and another 13th place in the Mass Start today.
Despite fading at the end of the competition and missing the Olympic medal he covets, once again, Hakkinen was optimistic. “I have been close; whether it was one shot from the bronze in the 20K or seeing third just 10 seconds in front of me at one point today. My shape and performance has continued to go up here. Maybe it was not my time. Sometimes you have to get close before you finally make the final step. I have continued to be close. I know it is going to happen.”
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.