SOCHI, Russia (March 9, 2013) - Fog, snow and slush plagued the Olympic course in Sochi today for the men and women's sprint events at IBU World Cup 8. Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, NY) posted the top finish for Team USA today with an 18th place in the women's 7.5-kilometer sprint. Posting a time of 26:59.6, with one penalty, Cook finished 1:30.9 minutes back from Poland's Magdalena Gwizdon, with her second career World Cup win, shooting clean with a time of 25:28.7. Anastasiya Kuzmina (SVK) took second (25:38.9/+1), and World Cup leader Tora Berger (NOR) finished third (25:42.4/+1).
"That was a tough day out there," said Cook following today's race. "First the fog was so thick, you couldn't see anything. We weren't sure if we could race, but luckily it cleared up. I was pretty excited to race today. Sometimes when conditions are a little crazy it seems like people relax a bit because it makes everything a bit more unpredictable, and you just have to laugh about it. I felt like it would be fun. But that course is so hard that by the time I came around for my second loop, it wasn't that much fun anymore. It just hurt a lot. The new snow made it so hard to ski. But, it is hard for everyone and our team is tough! I was really happy to clean standing and the miss in prone was too bad. I was fighting so hard to try and make it into the top-15 again, but I just died out there to make it to the finish. That was so so hard, but I am happy to have had another strong performance! It's always nice to have two in a row in a sport as unpredictable as biathlon!"
Susan Dunklee (Barton, VT) placed 25th today with a time of 27:20.2 and two penalties, and Sara Studebaker (Boise, ID) finished 51st (28:18.3/+2). "Our coach Jonne (Kähkönen) loves to remind us that "something might happen" unexpectedly on race day and we train to be ready," explained Dunklee. "Today was a grand adventure with slushy trails, thick fog that almost canceled the race, and then dumping snow. Today was solid for me, I was having fun and felt really strong skiing the uphills."
Extended results from today's 7.5k sprint are available here.
The men's 10k sprint opened competition today. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) had the top finish for Team USA's men with 28th place (27:03.1/+2). World Cup leader Martin Fourcade (FRA) won today with perfect shooting and a time of 25:17.3. Evgeny Ustyugov (RUS) took second (25:59.6/+1), and Henrick L'abee-Lund (NOR) was third posting 26:08.3 and clean shooting.
"Today was a tough day for me on the range," said Burke. " I had two penalties, which is not good enough for a sprint race. The tracks were also very challenging today with really deep, slushy snow on the climbs. We are all hoping for more normal conditions for the relay tomorrow!"
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) finished 30th today (27:07.4/+2), Leif Nordgren (Marine, MN) took 40th (27:29.3/+1), and Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) finished 91st (29:40/+5). Extended results from the men's 10k sprint are available here.
"A challenging day to be sure," said Bailey. "The conditions were really wet and slushy on the uphills and the snow was like wet cement going around the corners on the downhills. It wasn't my best day, but I was happy to put a decent shooting race together. I've been struggling over the past couple of weeks in the range, but today I felt relaxed and focused. Unfortunately, I ejected a bullet during the standing stage and I had to hand-load my last round as a result ... still should have hit it though."
Racing concludes tomorrow in Sochi with the men and women's relay events. Bailey, Burke, Currier and Nordgren will race for Team USA tomorrow, beginning at 6:30am (EST). With just three U.S. women in Sochi this week, Team USA will not field a team in the women's relay. Both events will be webcast live at www.biathlonworld.com.