HOCHFILZEN, Austria (February 9, 2017) – Team USA kicked off the IBU World Championships with a 16th-place finish in the 2x6+2x7.5-kilometer mixed relay on Thursday as the 10-day competition got underway in Hochfilzen. The American relay squad consisted of Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) and Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.).
Twenty-five nations lined up for the opening event of the world championships on a sunny afternoon with the shooting range wind flags motionless.
Dunklee was the lead leg of the relay for the American team and kept the squad in contention despite needing four spares. After using two extra rounds in prone, Dunklee left the range in 15th place, over 16 seconds from the lead, but was fast on her skis to make up 10 seconds and move up eight places before the standing stage. Two more spares in standing bumped Dunklee back to eighth, over 20 seconds off the front, but she used her skiing prowess once again to pull the team back to fourth place at the first exchange with Egan, only 7.6 seconds behind.
"We had a gorgeous sunny and snowy start to world championships," said Dunklee. "My skiing felt sharp and my body feels ready for these championships."
Egan stayed close to the leaders, helped by needing just one spare in prone, and was in sixth place exiting the range. However, three spares plus one penalty in standing knocked the team down to 17th and out of medal contention.
"It is a horrible, horrible feeling to take your team from podium contention to 17th place at world championships," stated Egan. "Everyone on our team -- athletes, ski techs, coaches, medical staff, executives -- works tirelessly year round to prepare for this competition. I have to be diligent immediately about shifting my focus to tomorrow's sprint race."
Bailey used just one spare in both prone and standing, and Doherty, after needing three extra rounds and a penalty in prone, finished strong with a clean standing stage. He crossed the line 3:20.2 back of the winning time.
"The relay didn't go the way we had hoped, but it was a good effort by all of our team," Bailey said. "This is the toughest field in the world and it was great to see Susan tag up in front today."
The German team of Vanessa Hinz, Laura Dahlmeier, Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp won the mixed relay gold medal with seven spares and a time of 1:09:06.4. The silver medal went to the French team of Anais Chevalier, Marie Dorin Habert, Quentin Fillon Maillet and Martin Fourcade, with one penalty and eight spares, 2.2 seconds back. Russia, with Olga Podchufarova, Tatiana Akimova, Alexander Loginov and Anton Shipulin, won the bronze medal with four spare rounds, 3.2 seconds behind Germany.
"Sixteenth wasn't what we were hoping for as a team, but there is plenty of racing to come and this crew is hungry," Dunklee added.
The IBU World Championships resume on Friday with the women's 7.5km sprint, featuring Dunklee, Egan, Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.) and Maddie Phaneuf (Old Forge, N.Y.), starting at 8:45 a.m. EST. The races will be streamed live on Eurovision.
Mixed 2x6+2x7.5 km relay results
|1.||Germany (Hinz, Dahlmeier, Peiffer, Schempp)||1:09:06.4/0+7|
|2.||France (Chevalier, Dorin Habert, Fillon Maillet, Fourcade)||+2.2/1+8|
|3.||Russia (Podchufarova, Akimova, Loginov, Shipulin)||+3.2/0+4|
||USA (Dunklee, Egan, Bailey, Doherty)