Team USA Opens 2013 IBU World Championships With 8th Place in Mixed Relay
NOVE MESTO, CZE (February 7, 2013) - Team USA's mixed relay squad (Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, NY), Susan Dunklee (Barton, VT) , Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY), Leif Nordgren (Marine, MN) opened the 2013 IBU World Championships in Nove Mesto, CZE with a strong performance, placing 8th in an exciting photo finish with Slovakia and posting a time of 1:13:37.7 (0+7). Today's finish marked the best-ever mixed relay performance for Team USA in a World Championship. Team Norway (Berger, Solemdal, Boe, Svendsen) won today with a time of 1:12:04.9 (0+4), Team France (Brunet,Dorin Habert, Boeuf, M. Fourcade) took second at 1:12:24.9 (0+8), and the Czech Republic (Vitkova, Soukalova,Soukup, Moravec) took bronze in front of the sold-out home crowd of 22,000 with a time of 1:12:37.2 (0+5)
The 2x6+2x7.5-kilometer mixed relay will make its debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games next year. The women start the race each skiing a 6k relay leg then tag off to the men who each ski 7.5k legs. Each athlete makes two trips to the range, first shooting in prone position, then returning to shoot in standing.
Cook, was the lead off skier for Team USA. She cleaned all five targets in prone, leaving the range in 8th place, 8.9 seconds back from the lead. Cook's second stage in standing was a challenge, needing three extra rounds to clean her targets, and dropping back to 10th place. Cook tagged to Dunklee in 14th place, and Dunklee cleaned her stage in prone to bring the team back up to 11th. Dunklee, who had the fastest time of her leg, then cleaned standing with one extra shot and left the range bringing Team USA up to ninth place. Dunklee tagged to Bailey in eighth. Bailey took two extra shots in prone, but cleaned standing in five shots to keep the team in the top-10. Bailey tagged off to Nordgren for the final leg in eighth place. Nordgren cleaned prone with one extra shot, then cleaned standing to move the team up to seventh. Coming into the finish Nordgren was neck and neck with Matej Kazar (SVK), crossing the line in a photo finish. Slovakia edged Team USA by 1/1000th of a second to take seventh.
"I am psyched with how well we did as a team," said Dunklee. "We were only seconds out of the flower ceremony and everybody had a strong leg. Both the skiing and the shooting came together for me today and I had my best race of the year. I had fast skis and was able to ski with Miri (Gossner/GER) and Daria (Domracheve/BLR). The Czech atmosphere is wonderful. I was surprised by how many thousands of positive and energetic fans were in the stands. It was even louder than Ruhpolding."
"It was an awesome atmosphere in Nove Mesto today," said Nordgren. "The crowd was really amazing, hats off to the organizers for getting so many people here. As far as the race went, it was a pretty good one for me. I've been struggling with some stomach issues for the last few days, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I ended up dying a little bit the last loop, but I managed to stay with Slovakia when he passed me. My feet just aren't big enough, so I lost the photo finish, but I was still happy. I think I'm in good shape for the coming races, and today was an excellent warmup!"
"That was exactly the start we wanted with really strong skiing and very good shooting," said Bernd Eisenbichler, US Biathlon's high performance director. " We were there in the race with the top teams from the beginning and it was a really strong performance from all our athletes. That was the right start for World Championships and gives a confidence boost to the whole team."
IBU World Championship competition continues Saturday, Feb. 9, with the men and women's sprint events. The men's 10k sprint kicks off at 7am (EST). Start lists and results will be available here. A live webcast of the men's sprint will be available here, and same-day television coverage will be available on the NBC Sports Network's Road To Sochi broadcast from 6-7 pm (EST)The women's 7.5k sprint will begin at 10:15am (EST) with a live webcast available here. Start lists and results will be available here. NBC Sports Network's Road To Sochi will broadcast a replay of the women's sprint on their Universal Sports platform, Monday, Feb. 11, 7-8pm (EST)