Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia (March 14, 2013) - With temperatures hovering at -15 Celsius this afternoon in Khanty-Mansiysk, Team USA's women opened the final IBU World Cup competition of the season with the 7.5-kilometer sprint. Susan Dunklee (Barton, VT) had the top finish for the team today at 29th place (23:17.9/+2). Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, NY) finished 36th (23:40/+2), and Sara Studebaker (Boise, ID) finished 66th (24:53.7/+2).
Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic posted her second career win, and second victory this season with clean shooting and a time of 21:25.6. Andrea Henkel (GER) took second (21:42.8/+0), and Miriam Gössner (GER) was third ((21:49.2/+1). Extended results from today's sprint are available here.
"Even though it is the final stretch of our season, I am still experimenting with different ways to pace my race," said Dunklee. "Today I learned a little more about when and where to push over the tops of the hills. I had a great ride behind Tora (Berger) during my second loop, and that helped me stay focused after a disappointing first shooting stage."
"Today was the first really cold race of the season, but I managed to stay warm so I am glad of that," commented Cook. "It's always so tricky to try and keep your fingers warm enough to feel the trigger. This sprint was decent and I am satisfied with how I did. It would have been fun to have results like in Sochi, but I will try again in the pursuit. After the course and altitude in Sochi, it was a little hard for me to tell how fast I should try to ski and I might not have had the best pacing out there. The end was hard, but I am not feeling totally empty right now either- so maybe there was more to give earlier in the race. Shooting was about average, and kind of went my usual way- clean prone and miss in standing. I am working on that though. It was nice to be on a course where you could just ski hard and stay relaxed because there is absolutely nothing technical about it here- so you could just go for it and that was awesome! "
"Today was a tough race for me," said Studebaker. " I've been struggling a lot the end of this season, and though I'm bummed to end my season on this note, I am looking forward to making changes and getting it right so I can come back stronger for the Olympic year ahead. The cold was especially tough today since our last race it was closer to +10C and today it was around -12C at race time. That always makes things more complicated for biathlon - dealing with cold hands and staying warm in zero. It's been nice not to have to deal with much this year, but we got a reminder that this is indeed a winter sport today!"
Dunklee and Cook will race for Team USA in Saturday's 10k pursuit, beginning at 6:30am (ET) and webcast live at www.biathlonworld.com.
Team USA's men take to the course in Khanty-Mansiysk tomorrow for the men's 10k sprint, beginning at 8am (ET). Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) will start with bib #2, Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) #32, Leif Nordgren (Marine, MN) #56, and Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) #99. Watch the race live at www.biathlonworld.com.