SOCHI, Russia (March 7, 2013) - Team USA posted three top-15 finishes on their inaugural race on the 2014 Olympic course in Sochi, Russia. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) continued an outstanding run this season with a fifth place finish in the men's 20-kilometer individual on the opening day of the IBU World Cup 8 in Sochi. With just one penalty, Burke posted a time of 50:31.6, 51 seconds back from World Cup leader Martin Fourcade (FRA), winning the event with a time of 49:40.6 and one penalty. Andreas Birnbacher (GER) took second with clean shooting and a time of 49:47.5, and Serhiy Semenov (UKR) finished third posting 50:12.5 and no penalties.
Today's fifth place finished marked Burke's fifth appearance among the Top-5 finishers in World Cup racing this season. "This is clearly the toughest course that I have ever raced," said Burke. "I was very happy to see today that I can be among the best on this course when I am in good shape. Not only are the uphills brutal here but the downhills feel like they belong on a GS course. It was great to have a chance to feel out the course today, now I know what I need to focus on for training this year. I feel like I am in my best shape of the year now, so I am really looking forward to the remaining races."
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) tied for 47th place with Milanko Petrovic (SRB), posting a time of 54:42.5 (+4). Leif Nordgren (Marine, MN) was 62nd (56:20.8/+4), and Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) finished 80th (58:47.9/+5). Extended results from today's 20k individual are available here.
In the women's 15k individual, Susan Dunklee (Barton, VT) and Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, NY) posted their best finishes of the 2012-13 season at eighth and 14th place, respectively. Dunklee held the lead early in today's race, cleaning her first three stages at the range, but one missed shot at the fourth stage gave World Cup leader Tora Berger (NOR) an opening to advance. Dayra Domracheva (BLR) came back for the win with a time of 45:45.2/+2, Olga Zaitseva (RUS) took second with clean shooting and a time of 46:19.8, Berger posted one penalty and finished third at 46:32. Sara Studebaker (Boise, ID) finished 42nd with two penalties and a time of 51:44.6. Extended results from today's women's 15k individual are available here.
"The Olympic course is a tough one with lots of climbing," said Dunklee. "Luckily it plays to our team's strengths, and Annelies and myself had our best results of the year. We are psyched! My strategy going into today was to hold back a little bit on the first loops to give myself a chance to shoot well in the early stages and to save my legs for the second half of the race," she added.
"I'm really excited about the result and the skiing today," said Cook. "I was uncertain about how this day would go but I was very pleased to shoot clean for three stages and that meant a lot to me. The course here is really hard with big steep uphills, twisty downhills, and altitude. I tried to stay really relaxed the first loop and even then, I wasn't totally sure I could keep going that way. My skis were super awesome and they have been for the past ten races and that helped me a lot, especially mentally. Our coaches were all over the course with positive messages. In the last standing, I hit the first shot and thought, 'Oh good- at least I won't dirty this last stage. Maybe I can clean,' and then I missed. Not the right way to think, but that's what makes biathlon such a challenge," added Cook.
Racing in Sochi continues Saturday with the men's 10k sprint beginning at 7am (EST) and the women's 7.5k sprint set to begin at 10am (EST). Both events will be webcast live at www.biathlonworld.com.