KONTIOLAHTI, Finland (March 7, 2015) - Under challenging weather conditions, Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) and Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) posted top-20 finishes on Saturday in the men's 10-kilometer sprint at the IBU World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland. Burke finished 15th in the 129-man field and Bailey was 17th to lead a contingent of six Americans in qualifying for Sunday's pursuit competitions.
Although temperatures were right around the freezing mark at the start of the men's sprint, it felt much colder due to blustery winds that tested the athletes on the range. Burke hit 8 of 10 targets on the range, missing one target in prone and one in standing, to finish with a time of 25:12.4, less than a minute off the winning time of Norway's Johannes Thingnes Boe (24:12.8/+1), who won his first world championship gold medal.
"Overall, today was a very solid race for me," said Burke. "I felt like I did everything well, but nothing great. I felt a little flat during the first lap of the race, but was able to pick it up after that. Normally, I would not be happy with two penalties in a sprint, but with the gusty wind conditions, I think this was solid shooting for today. I think everything is possible tomorrow, especially if we continue to see these challenging conditions."
Bailey came in less than two seconds behind Burke, missing only his last target in standing to finish in 25:14.3.
"Today was another challenging day in Kontiolahti," added Bailey. "There was a lot of gusting winds on the shooting range which made for some difficult shooting. In prone, I had a few split bullets but luckily, the paddles went up. In standing, I missed my last shot, another split bullet, but this time I wasn't as lucky. I am happy with the result but the last miss really pushed me out of top-10 contention. The nice thing is that tomorrow I am in a good position for the pursuit."
Also qualifying for Sunday's men's pursuit were Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) in 45th (26:09.4/+3) and 19-year-old Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.) in 55th (26:41.7/+3).
Nathan Smith of Canada won the silver medal, with one penalty, 12.1 seconds back, for his first-ever podium and medal, while Boe's older brother, Tarjei, captured the bronze medal, shooting clean, 25.3 seconds behind. Full men's sprint results are available here.
The start of the women's 7.5k sprint was met with even more challenging conditions as heavy snow was thrown into the mix. Although the snow tapered off at the midpoint of the race, the gusty winds remained a constant challenge at the range. Despite the trying conditions, Team USA rookie Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) emerged as the top U.S. finisher in 40th place (24:47.2/+4). Egan, along with Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.) in 42nd place (24:52.0/+3) earned starting spots in Sunday's women's 10k pursuit.
"Today was an 'anything can happen' kind of day," said Egan. "There was a pre-race blizzard that left fresh powder all over the trail for the early starters to plow through, and we were once again faced with strong, gusting winds. Even some of the best shooters missed a bunch, which sort of evened the playing field for someone like me who might miss a bunch either way. By the time I started, 35 minutes after the first person, the snow had stopped and the tracks were slick and skied-in. I credit my performance today to my late start position, the excellent work of my was techs, and maintaining good focus on my skiing technique and shooting process. I am looking forward to getting passed early on by Susan in tomorrow's pursuit, and then hanging on for dear life."
After the race, Dunklee described the conditions the racers faced out on the course today.
"A swirling blizzard coated the tracks just minutes before the start," she explained. "It was crucial to stay in the glazed tracks of the racers ahead to avoid the draggy new snow. On the range we saw strong, variable winds. I averaged over a minute per stage waiting out some big gusts. It must be my new record for the longest time I have spent at the range during a race. Considering my struggles, I am very grateful to have a start in tomorrow's pursuit."
Marie Dorin Habert of France took the victory in 22:16.8, with one penalty, for her first world championship gold medal and first individual win of her career. The silver medal went to Poland's Weronika Nowakowska Ziemniak, who shot clean and finished 9.6 seconds back. Valj Semerenko of Ukraine won the bronze medal with one penalty, 19.7 seconds back.
Narrowly missing out on qualifying in the top 60 for Sunday's pursuit was Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.) who came in 61st (25:30.1/+6) and Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) who finished 68th (25:45.3/+5). Full women's sprint results are available here.
Sunday's men's and women's pursuit races will be streamed live on Eurovision, with English commentary by Chad Salmela. The men's race starts at 8:15 a.m. EDT, with the women's race following at 11:00 a.m.
Men's 10km sprint
|1.||Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR)||24:12.8/+1|
|2.||Nathan Smith (CAN)||24:24.9/+1|
|3.||Tarjei Boe (NOR)||24:38.1/+0|
|15.||Tim Burke (Paul Smith, N.Y.)||25:12.4/+2|
|17.||Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.)||25:14.3/+1|
|45.||Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.)||26:09.4/+3|
|55.||Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.)||26:41.7/+3|
Women's 7.5km sprint
|1.||Marie Dorin Habert (FRA)||22:16.8/+1|
|2.||Weronika Nowakowska-Ziemniak (POL)||22:26.4/+0|
|3.||Valj Semerenko (UKR)||22:36.5/+1|
|40.||Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine.)||24:47.2/+4|
|42.||Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.)||24:52.0/+3|
|61.||Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.)||25:30.1/+6|
|68.||Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.)||25:45.3/+5|