KHANTY-MANSIYSK, Russia (March 19, 2015) - The final IBU World Cup of the 2014-15 season got underway on Thursday in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, with the men's 10-kilometer sprint. The U.S. team qualified all three of its athletes for Saturday's 12.5k pursuit. Leading the way for the Americans was Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) in 21st place (25:01.0/+1), followed by Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) in 51st (25:41.2/+2) and Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) in 55th (25:44.3/+4).
Martin Fourcade of France shot clean and scored his eighth win of the season in 23:47. Second place went to local favorite Anton Shipulin of Russia, also shooting clean but 13 seconds back. Benedikt Doll of Germany had the first podium of his career in third place, with one penalty, 18.3 seconds back.
Nordgren came into Thursday's race feeling under the weather and not expecting to turn in a great performance.
I'm really pretty surprised with this result to be honest," said Nordgren. "I've had a little upper respiratory sickness come on since yesterday, so I wasn't expecting much today. I would have been happy just to make the pursuit. Starting yesterday I could tell my nose and throat were headed in a bad direction, but it's the last race weekend of the season, so I just told myself to go for it and see what happens."
Starting 41st, Nordgren got off to a fast first loop, shooting clean in the prone position and exiting the range in 13th place, 18.7 seconds off the lead.
"Thinking that I had nothing to lose, I really gave everything I had right from the start, no holding back. I think I actually had a decent first loop, I knew that since I'm not feeling 100% that shooting was going to be really important today, so I took my time in prone just trying to make sure each shot was a good one."
On the second of the three loops, Nordgren was pushed by a small group of skiers behind him and hit four of the five targets in standing.
"In the second loop, again I just pushed as hard as a could. I had a little pack of guys that I was leading around the loop, so it was good motivation to go faster. In the standing shoot, again I tried to be a little on the conservative side. I wasn't quite as stable in that bout though, my legs were definitely shaking quite a bit which isn't normal for me, but I got away with only one miss."
Silver medalist Shipulin, who started two places behind Nordgren, gave him a little lift on the final loop as he went past.
"In the last loop I gave everything I had left. I got caught by Shipulin about halfway through the loop and it was really nice to be able to latch on to him to get a good ride."
Now, Nordgren looks ahead to Saturday's pursuit on a track that suits his skills.
"I really like the tracks here in Khanty. I think this is my favorite race course that we ski on. I've had success here in the past too, so maybe that gives my mind a little strength going into each race. I will have to be strong in the mind in the coming races to have a good chance, so we will see what the weekend brings."
Full men's sprint results are available here.
Competition continues Friday with the women's 7.5k pursuit beginning at 9:00 a.m. EDT. U.S. competitors include Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.) and Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.). A live stream of the women's sprint can be seen on Eurovision here.
Men's 10km sprint
|1.||Martin Fourcade (FRA)||23:47.0/+0|
|2.||Anton Shipulin (RUS)||24:00.0/+0|
|3.||Benedikt Doll (GER)||24:05.3/+1|
|21.||Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.)||25:01.0/+1|
|51.||Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.)||25:41.2/+2|
|55.||Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.)||25:44.3/+4|