Dreissigacker and Dunklee give USA two top 20 finishes at Pokljuka World Cup sprint

Photos from the women's sprint competition at the IBU World Cup in Pokljuka, Slovenia, on Dec. 18, 2014

Dec. 18, 2014, 1:13 p.m. (ET)

POKLJUKA, Slovenia (December 18, 2014) –The U.S. Biathlon Team got off to a strong start on Thursday as the third IBU World Cup of the 2014-15 season kicked off with the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint in Pokljuka, Slovenia. Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.) and Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.) both posted top-20 finishes with Dreissigacker ending up tied for 17th and Dunklee right behind her in 19th.

Dreissigacker was one of only 15 competitors in the 98-woman field to go clean on the shooting range, hitting all 10 targets en route to her best-ever World Cup finish. She crossed the line in 21:17, tied for 17th position with Austria’s Lisa Theresa Hauser, and just 59.7 seconds behind winner Gabriela Soukalova (20:17.3/+0) of the Czech Republic. Dunklee posted the 19th-best time of 21:19.9, missing one target in prone and one in standing. Their finishes put them in great positions for Saturday’s pursuit where they will start mere seconds apart.

Dorothea Wierer (ITA) placed second (20:35.7/+1) and Valj Semerenko (UKR) took third place (20:42.0/+0) in the women’s sprint.

“It was a personal best for me, and also knocked off a few of my goals for the season – to get a top-20, and to clean a sprint,” said Dreissigacker. “Now I will have to set my goals higher I guess. I was having a pretty rough start to the season this year, and so this was a huge step forward, and also just a relief – both my shooting and skiing were a lot better than the last two weekends. And I think that the skiing will continue to get better as the season progresses and I have more races. But right now I’m just so psyched to be starting the pursuit on Saturday, and in a great position.”

Before the start, Dunklee sensed there were opportunities to be capitalized upon.

“In the starting pen, I watched a lot of the early starters shooting prone and there were plenty of misses, so I knew it was a day full of opportunities,” Dunklee said. “I got lucky out of the start gate and caught a ride behind Kaisa Makarainen. I felt relaxed going her pace, which was great.”

Dunklee thought the unique course layout contributed to the low number of clean rounds.

“There is a long downhill approach, which probably catches people off guard. We carry a lot of speed into the range and have to throw on the brakes to stop – no other range on the World Cup circuit is quite like it.”

She is also excited about Dreissigacker’s performance in the sprint, as well as the outlook for Saturday’s pursuit.

“Hannah is a talented athlete who has worked very hard for several years now, and she is very deserving of the way things came together for her today,” said Dunklee. “I’m looking forward to skiing with her in the pursuit.”

The third member of the U.S. team, Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.), finished 94th on the day (24:39.2/+3). View the complete women’s pursuit results here.

World Cup competition in Pokljuka continues on Friday with the men’s 10k pursuit going off at 8:30 a.m. EST. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.), Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) and Russell Currier (Stockholm, Maine) will be in action for Team USA. Watch the race live or via replay here.

IBU World Cup 2

Pokljuka, Slovenia

Dec. 18-21, 2014

Women’s 7.5km Sprint


Gabriela Soukalova (CZE)



Dorothea Wierer (ITA)



Valj Semerenko (UKR)



Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.)



Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.)



Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.)