US Biathlon IBU Cup Provides Exp...

IBU Cup Provides Experience, Racing Opportunities for U.S. Athletes

By Bill Kellick | Jan. 13, 2021, 1:40 p.m. (ET)

Chloe Levins skis away from the shooting range during the 2020 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships
Chloe Levins skis away from the shooting range during the 2020 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships (photo by Jeffrey Leopold)

A mix of IBU Cup veterans will team with up-and-coming athletes to form the 12-person roster for U.S. Biathlon at the first two IBU Cups of the season starting Thursday in Arber, Germany. After being delayed due to COVID and with no December racing, around 190 men and 170 women are registered for the IBU Cup events in Arber that run through January 23.

The extra start positions and opportunity for the younger athletes to gain experience comes after the Junior IBU Cup competitions were canceled this season due to the pandemic.

“It's nice to have this mix because I think the newer athletes can learn a lot from the veterans,” said U.S. Biathlon Director of Athlete Development Tim Burke. “I expect our veterans to be in contention for top results like they did last season. For the newer athletes, it's all about gaining experience and confidence competing at this level."

One of those athletes looking to gain experience on their first U.S. Biathlon trip is Jackie Garso of Lake Clear, N.Y.

“I'm approaching this time in Arber as a learning experience,” Garso said. “I've never been on a trip with USBA or to Europe before, and my goals for the season were based around Junior Worlds, not the IBU Cup. Obviously, I'm going to take it seriously and race as hard as I can, but I'm playing with house money a little bit here because I wasn't expecting to make it at all.”

Garso’s travel companion to Europe, Lucy Hochschartner of Lake Placid, N.Y., is also making her international biathlon debut.

“This is my first trip with U.S. Biathlon, so I am trying to keep an open mind and focus on the process. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity and so thankful for all my teammates showing me the ropes. I am hoping to get more comfortable with biathlon racing since I come from a Nordic background.”

Another athlete making their international debut on the senior circuit is Emma Stertz of Grand Rapids, Minn.

“I am excited to be racing against athletes that I know from junior races as well as older, more experienced athletes,” said Stertz. “With the mix of athletes and the higher level of racing, I think this will be a great learning experience. I am excited to bring my experiences in Europe back to my teammates at the College of Saint Scholastica.”

Of course, for those IBU Cup veterans, this season is unlike any other they’ve experienced before. With the IBU COVID precautions in place, the entire U.S. delegation was tested at home and then was tested again upon their arrival at the Munich airport. They will then enter the IBU testing protocols during the event window.

“I am impressed with all of the changes the IBU made to keep teams safe,” Burke said. “Although things look and feel a little different on the ground now, I expect race days to be relatively unchanged.”

“The U.S. Biathlon staff has put in a tremendous effort to get us here and keep us healthy on the ground,” added Chloe Levins of Rutland, Vt., a veteran of six IBU Youth and Junior World Championships. “The privilege we have to be traveling and racing during this period would not be possible without the protocols set in place by USBA and the IBU. I’m confident that the environment here in Arber will be conducive to a safe and positive racing experience. There’s been a lot of anticipation for these races, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Twenty-year-old Vincent Bonacci of Salt Lake City, Utah, is also thankful for the opportunity to be racing during these uncertain times.

“I am going into these races with no expectations,” Bonacci said. “I know the competition here is the toughest of my lifetime, so I am looking to learn as much as possible from my coaches, fellow athletes, and competitors. I am also looking to have a ton of fun, as I am getting to race in 2021 in the midst of a pandemic, so there is honestly nothing to complain about.”

For World Cup and IBU Cup veteran Hallie Grossman (Craftsbury, Vt.), she is most looking forward to the thrill of competition.

“I'm excited to get back to racing,” she said. “It's been just over 10 months since I raced last so I'm psyched to do what we have been training for. The skiing and shooting feel the same, other than the mat sweepers wearing masks so you are reminded you're in a pandemic before each shooting. The hotel we are staying at has done an excellent job with COVID protocols, with distanced tables, teams eating in separate areas, and gloves to go to the buffet.”

A few schedule changes have been made to the IBU Cup competition in Arber to accommodate the large field. The short individual competitions, which were scheduled for the first week, will be now held during the second week, while two sprint competitions will take place the first week. However, the men’s sprint competitions during the first week will be conducted on the 2.5km loop.

“I’m looking forward to racing here in Arber,” said Max Durtschi who raced in last week’s IBU World Cup in Oberhof, Germany. “This is a great venue with a really challenging trail system and range. I think with such a large field this will be a tight race.”

“The course is hard,” added Lars Hammernes Leopold. “Although some courses are more forgiving if you´re in shape, this course is not so forgiving.”

IBU Cup competition begins Thursday with the women’s 7.5km sprint and the men’s 10km sprint. The full schedule for the next two weekends is below. Following IBU Cups 1 and 2, the U.S. team will travel to Duszniki Zdroj, Poland, to compete in the IBU Open European Championships, Jan. 27-31.

IBU Cup 1
Thursday, January 14
Women’s 7.5km Sprint (4:30 a.m. EST)
Men’s 10km Sprint (8:00 a.m. EST)

Saturday, January 16
Women’s 7.5km Sprint (4:30 a.m. EST)
Men’s 10km Sprint (8:00 a.m. EST)

Sunday, January 17
Women’s 4x6km Relay (5:00 a.m. EST)
Men’s 4x7.5km Relay (8:00 a.m. EST)

IBU Cup 2
Wednesday, January 20
Men’s 15km Short Individual (4:00 a.m. EST)
Women’s 12.5km Short Individual (8:00 a.m. EST)

Friday, January 22
Men’s 10km Sprint (4:30 a.m. EST)
Women’s 7.5km Sprint (8:00 a.m. EST)

Saturday, January 23
Single Mixed Relay (5:00 a.m. EST)
Mixed Relay (7:30 a.m. EST)

U.S. Biathlon Roster
Women
Chloe Levins (Rutland, Vt.)
Maddie Phaneuf (Old Forge, N.Y.)
Jaqueline (Jackie) Garso (Lake Clear, N.Y.)
Lucy Hochschartner (Lake Placid, N.Y.)
Emma Stertz (Grand Rapids, Minn.)
Hallie Grossman (Craftsbury, Vt.)

Men
Max Durtschi (Ketchum, Idaho)
Raleigh Goessling (Duluth, Minn.)
Vincent Bonacci (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Lars Hammernes Leopold (Truckee, Calif.)
Garrett Beckrich Grand Rapids, Minn.)
Vasek Cervenka (Grand Rapids, Minn.)

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