HOCHFILZEN, Austria (February 15, 2017) – Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.) raced to an impressive sixth place in Wednesday's women's 15-kilometer individual event at the IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen, and in the process secured a berth on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team. Dunklee hit 18 of 20 targets and was in the hunt for the bronze medal before missing a target in the final standing shoot. Nevertheless, she was pleased with how the race played out for her.
"This was a wonderful day," Dunklee said. "I focused on doing my own race and felt much more emotionally detached in the shooting range, even with a medal on the line. My focus stayed fully on the process."
Dunklee had the third-fastest range time among the field of 99 competitors, finishing 2:06.8 behind winner Laura Dahlmeier of Germany who won her third gold medal of the World Championships with one penalty and a time of 41:30.1. Gabriela Koukalova of Czech Republic matched Dahlmeier on the shooting range but not on the tracks, finishing 24.7 seconds back for the silver medal. Italy's Alexia Runggaldier, shooting clean, equaled her career best result with third place and the bronze medal, 1:45.6 behind Dahlmeier.
Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) nailed her first 15 targets but suffered two misses in the final standing stage. Still, her 22nd place is a career best in the 15km.
"I'm really happy with my race," said Egan. "This is my third-best ever World Cup result, after my sprint here last week (where she was 20th) and the sprint in Oestersund at the beginning of the 15/16 season (where she was 16th). And it is a big improvement from my previous best individual (40th in Oestersund to start the current season). To have two of my career-best races here this week shows that my training is working well and I am making progress as a biathlete."
Wednesday was the warmest day of the IBU World Championships, with temperatures topping out at 12 degrees Celsius and the snow getting very soft on the top. Egan was quick to sing the praises of Team USA's ski technicians for adapting to the conditions.
"Today's race was one of the warmest I've ever done and the conditions ranged from deep slush in the sun to icy ruts in the shade," she said. "Our ski techs made excellent skis, which is a serious accomplishment in these challenging and varied conditions, and my ski speed played a big role in my success. I set a new personal-best ski time rank of 26."
Egan was also buoyed by her strong showing on the shooting range.
"On my last stage my legs were trembling a little bit, but I did a good job taking care of what I could control, including my position in my trigger squeeze. My misses were really close. This was my best shooting in a four-stage race. I am sure this experience will help me for next time I am in that position."
Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo) and Maddie Phaneuf (Old Forge, N.Y.) finished 56th and 87th, respectively, in their first world championship 15km. Both hit 16 of 20 targets, with Reid going clean in the final standing and Phaneuf shooting clean from prone.
"Though Maddie and Joanne were hoping for higher results, our whole women's team had solid shooting, led of course by Susan's 6th place," added Egan. "We are ready for our relay on Friday."
The quartet of Dunklee, Egan, Reid and Phaneuf will line up on Friday for the women's 4x6km relay starting at 8:45 a.m. EST. Dunklee has also qualified for Sunday's 12.5km mass start, and Egan is hoping to be added to the 30-woman field.
"I am the first alternate for the mass start, so if someone withdraws, then you will see me in my mass start debut on Sunday," said Egan. "Otherwise, the women's relay on Friday will be my last race of the 2017 World Championships. I am very satisfied with the work I've done this far, and the comeback I made from my very disappointing performance in the mixed relay. The women's relay is the event I am looking forward to the most."
The IBU World Championships continue on Thursday with the men's 20km individual, featuring Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) and Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.). The race starts at 8:30 a.m. EST and will be streamed live on Eurovision.
Women's 15km individual results
|1.||Laura Dahlmeier (GER)||41:30.1/+1|
|2.||Gabriela Koukalova (CZE)||+24.7/+1|
|3.||Alexia Runggaldier (ITA)||+1:45.6/+0|
||Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.)
|22.||Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine)||+3:55.0/+2|
|56.||Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.)||+6:36.7/+4|
|87.||Maddie Phaneuf (Old Forge, N.Y.)||+9:38.3/+4