HOCHFILZEN, Austria (February 17, 2017) – The U.S. women's relay team of Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine), Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.) and Maddie Phaneuf (Old Forge, N.Y.) slogged their way through sloppy conditions to a 14th-place finish in Friday's 4x6-kilometer relay at the IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen. The team used 13 spare rounds at the shooting range to finish 3 minutes and 37 seconds back of the winning team from Germany.
Heavy snowfall and gusting winds greeted the women's relay field on Friday, much different conditions than the clear, sunny days that preceded it.
Starting in 22nd position in the 23-team field, Egan skied the first 6km loop. After needing just one spare round in prone, Egan had the team in 19th place but dropped back down to 22nd after using three extra rounds in standing. She battled the squad back to 17th place by the time she made the first exchange with Dunklee, 1:20 back of the leaders.
"I didn't do great on the shooting range today, but I skied well," Egan commented. "That's biathlon."
Dunklee raced a remarkable leg given the conditions. She cleaned from prone and needed two spare rounds in standing, but still managed to gain 44 seconds on the leaders during the leg, making up 10 spots as she tagged off to Reid in seventh place, now just 36.7 seconds out of first.
"Well, after a couple weeks of sunshine, Mother Nature decided to keep us on our toes and give us a blizzard," said Dunklee. "Skiing was a little tricky -- slow snow and hard to balance on, plus I could barely see through my fogged-up glasses on the last lap. I had a blast chasing people down, though, and we all put together solid performances."
Reid started strong, maintaining the seventh-place position despite using one extra round in prone, but three more spares in standing bumped the team to 12th as she made the final exchange with Phaneuf. However, Reid noted that she had to battle more than just the sloppy conditions.
"I lost a prone shot to the girl next to me rising from her mat and hitting my leg, jerking my whole body and therefore the bullet completely off the target," she said.
Phaneuf used a spare round in prone and two extras in standing and struggled with the slow track, eventually crossing the line in 14th position.
"The race went okay overall...nothing special, but nothing terrible," Phaneuf said. "I used more spares than I'd like, but I was happy to finally hit more than three standing targets in a race. The weather conditions made the skiing tough, but it was a fun way to end my time here at my first world champs."
The German team of Vanessa Hinz, Maren Hammerschmidt, Franziska Hildebrand and Laura Dahlmeier used nine spares and posted the winning time of 1:11:16.6, giving them their fourth relay win of the season. Ukraine, with Iryna Varvynets, Yuliia Dzhima, Anastasiya Merkushyna and Olena Pidhrushna won the silver medal, with just four spare rounds, 6.4 seconds back. France, with Anais Chevalier, Celia Aymonier, Justine Braisaz and Marie Dorin Habert, took the bronze medal with seven spares, 8.1 seconds behind Germany. Full women's relay results available HERE.
"It was exciting to watch Susan bring us into the top ten and Joanne keep us there," added Egan. "We finished 14th, which is only one place worse than last year, despite a much less experienced team. That shows the great potential of the group as we gain experience."
Following the race, Reid noted the team is still riding the high of Lowell Bailey's world title the previous day.
"To put relevant words to this race on the heels of Lowell's gold medal is quite difficult," Reid said. "In fact, I would endeavor to say it is impossible. We went out there in the wet snow and we raced, some of us faster than others, some of us with more spares than others. But it was for us just another day of work. The earth-shattering joy, the dream-like feeling that has been following this team since the moment Lowell's eyes hit the results board is still here, and so much bigger, so much greater than anything that happened today. Yes, this was World Championships. Yes, we are one step closer to the 2018 Olympic Games where we will likely field this exact relay team, but today we simply raced in salute to a performance and an achievement twenty years in the making. For the women's team, our eyes turn now to Susan in the mass start (on Sunday), because she has incredible ski capability, insurmountable courage, and the determination to rise to the top. Her day is coming."
The IBU World Championships continue on Saturday with the men's 4x7.5km relay featuring newly-crowned 20km individual world champion Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) and teammates Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) and Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.). The race begins at 8:45 a.m. EST and will be streamed live on Eurovision.
Women's 4x6km relay results
|1.||Germany (Hinz, Hammerschmidt, Hildebrand, Dahlmeier)||1:11:16.6/0+9|
|2.||Ukraine (Varvynets, Dzhima, Merkushyna, Pidhrushna)||+6.4/0+4|
|3.||France (Chevalier, Aymonier, Braisaz, Dorin Habert)||+8.1/0+7|
||USA (Egan, Dunklee, Reid, Phaneuf)