Dunklee Sets Personal Best of 4th in Nove Mesto Pursuit; Bailey 9th in Men's Race

Photos from the men's and women's pursuit races on Dec. 17, 2016 at BMW IBU World Cup 3 in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic

By Bill Kellick | Dec. 17, 2016, 12:36 p.m. (ET)

NOVE MESTO, Czech Republic (December 17, 2016) – Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.) and Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) gave the U.S. Biathlon Team two top-10 finishes in Saturday's pursuit races at the BMW IBU World Cup 3 in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Dunklee finished fourth in the women's 10-kilometer pursuit, while Bailey came in ninth in the men's 12.5k race. For Dunklee it was a personal-best finish in the pursuit and comes one week after she tied her previous personal best with a fifth-place effort at BMW IBU World Cup 2 in Pokljuka, Slovenia.

Dunklee started third off the line in the women's race, five seconds behind Friday's sprint winner Tatiana Akimova of Russia and less than a second back of France's Anais Chevalier. The three leaders held their position into the first prone shooting stage, but Dunklee was the only one to go clean, giving her the lead and a 15-second advantage over Italy's Dorothea Wierer who also went clean to move up from seventh place at the start.

"I wanted to catch a ride on the first loop," Dunklee said of her race strategy. "I now trust my range work to put me where I want to be."

And where that put her was out in front of the race alone with an energetic crowd cheering her on. But the World Cup veteran didn't let her emotions get the best of her.

"Mostly I was just focusing on skiing in control," she said. "The race is long and leading early doesn't necessarily mean much."

After a miss in her second prone stage, Dunklee dropped back to fourth place, 14 seconds out of first. Another miss on her last target in the first standing stage knocked her down to fifth, but she reclaimed fourth with a clean final standing. That put her five seconds behind Akimova leaving the range, but she couldn't summon any extra firepower from her legs to close the gap in the final stretch.

"Everyone was struggling a lot today with the icy surface," Dunklee added. "It is impossible in places to get any purchase on the snow."

Chevalier overtook the lead to claim her first-ever World Cup victory in 30:38.1, with a single penalty. Wierer had a season-best second place, with two penalties, 9.5 seconds back. Akimova held off Dunklee for third, with one penalty and 19.4 seconds behind Chevalier. Dunklee, who had the fastest total range time in the field, crossed the line 8.6 seconds after Akimova. American Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.) hit 18 of 20 targets to finish 54th. Full women's pursuit results are available here.

In the men's pursuit, Bailey jumped all the way up from his 20th-place start position to finish ninth, with two penalties on the range and a time of 34:15.7. Martin Fourcade of France dominated the men's pursuit, winning in 32:53.6 despite a penalty in the second prone stage. It marked his 55th World Cup victory. Second place went to Anton Shipulin of Russia, with two penalties, 30.2 seconds back. Fourcade's teammate, Quentin Fillon Maillet finished third with clean shooting, edging Germany's Simon Schempp in the final 100 meters. Russell Currier (Stockholm, Maine) also started the race for the U.S. team but was lapped and did not finish. Full men's pursuit results are available here.

Bailey missed his last shot in the opening prone stage and there was some confusion on the live feed as to whether he even got his last shot off as it didn't appear on the screen.

"Apparently, there was a glitch in the graphics system and the final shot didn't register," said Bailey. "I didn't hear about it until after the race."

Knocked down to 25th place, Bailey was undeterred and methodically chipped away at the racers in front of him, turning in the fifth-fastest time on the second loop to quickly move up to 19th after a clean round in second prone.

"I felt good on the skis today," Bailey added. "Our wax crew has done a phenomenal job here in Nove Mesto and I think they definitely nailed the ski prep today."

Despite another miss in the first standing stage, Bailey continued to gain on the field ahead moving up to 16th. A clean final round put him in 11th exiting the range and then he put the throttle down with the fourth-fastest final loop of the day to cross the line ninth.

Bailey said he had to put the early miss on the range behind him in order to make some headway on the field.

"I overheld my last shot in the first prone and missed out to the right. I was definitely frustrated because missing during the first stage of the pursuit can be a costly penalty. I just tried to stay focused on making quality shots after that... I didn't really think about where that would put me on the results list. In fact, I didn't know what place I was in on the last lap because the course was so loud today that you couldn't hear any of the information the coaches were shouting out on course."

Another raucous crowd assembled in Nove Mesto on Saturday to take in the men's and women's pursuits and the athletes were receptive to the high-energy output.

"It was definitely the most incredible atmosphere and the loudest crowd noise, on the track and in the stadium, I've ever experienced at any biathlon race... period," said Bailey. "When I first started biathlon in 1997, I never dreamed that the sport could become this big. It's nothing short of thrilling!"

"(The crowd was) like an electric current," added Dunklee. "I had a lot of fun waving to the stands in the warm-up and hearing them cheer."

The early-season performances of Bailey and Dunklee are making the biathlon world take notice. 

"Lowell and Susan are at the world standard for shooting right now in time and accuracy," stated NBC commentator Chad Salmela. "It's the first time as an interested observer that there is no apparent gap between the shooting speed and accuracy of our best biathletes and that of the best in the world. The result is those two athletes ranked in the top 10 in the world maybe even without the best skiing of their careers."

The World Cup in Nove Mesto wraps up Sunday with the men's and women's mass start events. Bailey will compete in the men's 15k race beginning at 5:45 a.m. EST, while Dunklee will toe the line in the women's 12.5k event starting at 8:15 a.m. EST. Live streaming coverage of the races can be seen at www.eurovisionsports.tv/ibu. .

Women’s 10km pursuit results

1.

Anais Chevalier (FRA)

30:38.1/+1

2.

Dorothea Wierer (ITA)

+9.5/+2

3.

Tatiana Akimova (RUS)

+19.4/+1

4.

Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.)

+28.0/+2

54.

Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.)

++4:29.0/+2

Men’s 12.5km pursuit results

1.

Martin Fourcade (FRA)

32:53.6/+1

2.

Anton Shipulin (RUS)

+30.2/+2

3.

Quentin Fillon Maillet (FRA)

++38.3/+0

9.

Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.)

+1:22.1/+2

LPD 

Russell Currier (Stockholm, Maine)