US Biathlon Team USA fights back...

Team USA fights back to finish 8th in mixed relay

March 05, 2015, 12:49 p.m. (ET)

Photos from the mixed relay at the 2015 IBU World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland, on March 5, 2015.

KONTIOLAHTI, Finland (March 5, 2015) - Team USA got off to a strong start at the IBU World Championships on Thursday with an eighth-place finish in the 2x6+2x7.5-kilometer mixed relay. The American squad consisted of Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) and Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.).

Deep, soft snow and temperatures above freezing made for deep ruts on the track as the 26 teams in the field assembled for the start. The conditions didn't seem to affect Dunklee, however, as she quickly moved up from the seventh-place start position to second place at the 1.3km time check. With one miss in prone, Dunklee dropped to eighth place, but quickly regrouped to ski herself back into third behind Japan's Fuyuko Suzuki and the Czech Republic's Veronika Vitkova as they entered the standing stage. Another miss in standing pushed Dunklee back to fifth place, but again she used her powerful skiing to trudge through the deep snow and elevate the team back into third place as she tagged off to Dreissigacker at the first exchange, just 10.7 seconds out of the lead.

Dreissigacker was passed by Darya Domracheva of Belarus and held on to fourth position as they entered the prone shooting, but she struggled to find her rhythm at the range, using five spares and needing one penalty loop before exiting the range in 13th place. Two more spares at the standing stage put the U.S. back to 15th place, 1:51 minutes off the pace, but Dreissigacker dug deep and passed the teams from Canada and Poland to regain 13th position as she tagged off to Bailey.

"I definitely didn't have the race that I was hoping for today," said Dreissigacker. "I'm really disappointed with my prone shooting, but I guess that is biathlon. I wish it didn't happen in a race that affected my teammates as well."

Bailey, who is rounding back into form after dealing with an illness last month, cleaned both prone and standing on his third leg of the relay to turn in the second-quickest range time and briefly move the Americans up to 10th place before exchanging with Nordgren in 11th place for the final leg.

"It was a challenging day on the course this evening," Bailey said. "The conditions are warm and slushy with huge ruts and heaps in the trail. I just tried to focus on staying relaxed and not floundering too much in the deep snow. I was aggressive in the shooting range and was happy with the shooting performance. It has been a long month of recovery and training, trying to bounce back from the sickness I had in early February. I'm confident with the three weeks of training preceding these races and I hope to feel better on the tracks as the series progresses." 

Nordgren got out fast on the final leg, passing teams from Slovakia and Ukraine to move up to ninth place before the first shooting stage.

"I was happy with my part of the race for sure," said Nordgren. "We had great skis which helped a lot. Having not raced in a few weeks, when Lowell tagged off to me I wasn't really sure what to expect, but with the conditions being so bad I didn't want to push too hard too early. But with such fast skis it didn't seem to matter, I was making time up on just about everyone right away in the first lap."

After using one spare in prone, Nordgren hung on to ninth place and found himself just nine seconds behind the host team Finland as the second loop began.

"During prone I had that one extra round, which might have actually made a difference in the end, but it's hard to say," Nordgren added.

He maintained that position into the standing stage where he shot clean with the third-fastest range time, vaulting him past Finland and into the eight spot.

"During the second loop I don't think I made up too much time, but as I was coming into standing I saw that both Germany and Italy had some misses, so I decided to go for it and shoot fast to see if I could make up any time. It worked, and I left the range about five or six seconds behind those two."

A strong finishing loop by Nordgren secured the top-10 placing for Team USA as he skied across the line in eighth place with a time of 1:22:13.8.

"During the last loop I had the gap down to about two or thee seconds maybe, but I could never quite make contact. I'm pretty disappointed knowing that being in the flower ceremony was right there, but watching it ski away in the last few hundred meters. Overall, I'm happy with both shooting and skiing. It was a good way to open up these races, so hopefully I can keep this form going for the races yet to come."

The Czech Republic team of Vitkova, Gabriela Soukalova, Michal Slesingr and Ondrej Moravec claimed the mixed relay gold medal in a time of 1:20:27.2, with eight spare rounds. France, also with eight spare rounds, claimed the silver medal, 20.2 seconds back, while Norway, with one penalty and three spares, finished third, 27.7 seconds behind the Czech Republic. The U.S. finished 1:46.6 back. Full mixed relay results are available here.

Dunklee feels the U.S. team rises to the challenge when faced with adverse weather conditions like they had today.

"We slogged through slush today; conditions that can make the best in the world look clumsy skiing up a hill," said Dunklee. "Luckily, as a team, I think we excel at challenging conditions. It wasn't a perfect performance for us on the range, but there were lots of great elements. The result was remarkably consistent with where we have finished in other mixed relays over the past year."

With plenty of racing left in the week ahead, Dreissigacker knows she can't dwell on one poor shooting performance.

"My teammates did so well, I'm happy and proud for them," she said. "Now I just have to move on and look forward to all of the other racing that is coming up."

After a rest day on Friday, the IBU World Championships presented by BMW resume with the men's and women's sprint races on Saturday. The races will be streamed live on Eurovision with English commentary by Chad Salmela. They will also be broadcast on the Universal Sports Network. Please see the broadcast schedule below with all times listed EST.

Mixed 2x6+2x7.5km relay

1. Czech Republic (Vitkova, Soukalova, Slesingr, Moravec) 1:20:27.2/0+8
2. France (Bescond, Dorin Habert, Beatrix, M. Fourcade) 1:20:47.4/0+8
3. Norway (Horn, Eckhoff, J. Boe, T. Boe) 1:20:54.9/1+3
8. USA (Dunklee, Dreissigacker, Bailey, Nordgren) 1:22:13.8/1+8

Broadcast schedule


Eurovision (Live Stream)

Universal Sports

Mar. 5

Mixed relay: 11:15 a.m.


Mar. 7

Men’s sprint: 7:00 a.m.

Women’s sprint: 10:30 a.m.


Mar. 8

Men’s pursuit: 8:15 a.m.

Women’s pursuit: 11:00 a.m.


Mar. 9


Mixed relay (from Mar. 5): 8-9 p.m.

Mar. 10


Men’s sprint & pursuit (from Mar. 7-8): 8-9 p.m.

Mar. 11

Women’s individual: 12:15 p.m.

Women’s sprint & pursuit (from Mar. 7-8): 8-9 p.m.

Mar. 12

Men’s individual: 12:15 p.m.


Mar. 13

Women’s relay: 12:15 p.m.


Mar. 14

Men’s relay: 11:30 a.m.

Men’s relay (same-day): 7-8 p.m.

Mar. 15

Women’s mass start: 8:30 a.m.

Men’s mass start: 11:00 a.m.

Women’s mass start (same-day): 6-7 p.m.

Men’s mass start (same-day): 7-8 p.m.



Related Athletes

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Susan Dunklee

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Hannah Dreissigacker

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Lowell Bailey

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Leif Nordgren