Dunklee Five Seconds From World Cup Win, Takes Bronze in Nove Mesto Sprint

Photos from the women's sprint at the BMW IBU World Cup in Nove Mesto

By Bill Kellick | Dec. 16, 2016, 1:15 p.m. (ET)

NOVE MESTO, Czech Republic (December 16, 2016) – Clean shooting and fast skiing by Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.) put her on the podium and just over five seconds from claiming the gold medal in Friday's women's 7.5-kilometer sprint at the BMW IBU World Cup 3 in Nove Mesto. In the end, Dunklee's efforts were good enough for the bronze medal and her best-ever showing at the venue in Nove Mesto.

"Nove Mesto is one of my favorite places to race," said Dunklee. "The stadium crowd roars like thunder and every meter of the course is packed with spectators."

A crowd estimated at around 30,000 saw Russia's Tatiana Akimova claim her first-ever World Cup with clean shooting and a time of 21 minutes, 58.9 seconds. Anais Chevalier of France also had a personal best in second place, 4.3 seconds back, while Dunklee was 5.1 seconds off the time of Akimova.

Starting right behind World Cup leader Laura Dahlmeier of Germany, Dunklee kept pace and eventually passed her after Dahlmeier had two penalties in the standing shoot. Dunklee crossed the line more than 10 seconds ahead of the German to post the fastest time among the first 23 finishers. Dunklee's time looked like it might hold up as all the favorites were stacked among the early starters in the 96-woman field. Things looked even brighter when local Czech favorite Gabriela Koukalova had three standing penalties to drop out of contention.

"I was psyched to take the lead at the finish and I knew I had had a great race, but experience has taught me not to count on a result holding up until all the racers are in," Dunklee said.

Sure enough, out of nowhere came Akimova, who was 29th and 30th in the two previous sprints this season. Then Chevalier matched the Russian on the shooting range and was fast enough on her skis in the final loop to nip Dunklee for second place by less than a second.

"It was a bummer to get knocked down two spots but I'm super happy tonight anyway," stated Dunklee.

It all sets up for an exciting pursuit race on Saturday, with Akimova, Chevalier and Dunklee all starting within five seconds of each other, and Dahlmeier going off the line fourth, 11 seconds behind Dunklee.

"For tomorrow's pursuit I will focus on my job, which is simply to perform well," said Dunklee. "We'll have to wait and see where that will land me."

Joining Dunklee in the pursuit will be Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.) who missed just one target to finish 52nd in the sprint, 1:46.5 back of the lead. Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) had three penalties on the range which put her out of contention. She finished 62nd, 1:59.4 off the time of Akimova. Full women's sprint results are available here.

The men's 12.5k pursuit, featuring Americans Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) and Russell Currier (Stockholm, Maine), begins at 9:00 a.m. EST on Saturday, with the women's 10k pursuit to follow at 11:40 a.m. EST. Both races can be seen via live stream at www.eurovisionsports.tv/ibu.

Women’s 7.5km sprint results

1.

Tatiana Akimova (RUS)

21:58.9/+0

2.

Anais Chevalier (FRA)

+4.3/+0

3.

Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.)

+5.1/+0

52.

Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.)

+1:46.5/+1

62.

Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine)

+1:59.4/+3