Biathlon Worlds: Historic Gold for Bailey and Silver for Dunklee
Historic Gold for Bailey and Silver for Dunklee
The 2017 IBU Biathlon World Championships, Feb. 9-19, in Hochfilzen, Austria, were historic as Lowell Bailey captured the U.S.A.'S first-ever Biathlon Championship gold medal in the men's Individual 20km, while Susan Dunklee's mass-start silver marked the first Individual Biathlon Worlds medal by an American women.
The Mixed relay kicked the racing off under sunny skies, with hard tracks and low wind. The day belonged to the strong German team, with France just behind at 2.2 seconds and Russia in third at 3.2 seconds behind. Canada's Julia Ransom, Rosanna Crawford, Brendan Green and Scott Gow finished 13th at 2:18.2 back using nine spare rounds. Team USA'S Susan Dunklee, Clare Egan, Lowell Bailey and Sean Doherty were 16th at 3:20.2 behind with two penalties using 13 spares. “We had a gorgeous sunny and snowy start to the World Championships,” said Dunklee. “My skiing felt sharp and my body feels ready for these Championships.”
Women's 7.5km Sprint
Individual racing started up the next day, beginning with the women's 7.5km sprint competition. American Egan delivered a career-best 20th with clean shooting and fast skiing to finish at 1:12.4 behind winner Gabriela Koukalova of the Czech Republic. Despite a decorated career, it was Koukalova's first World Championships gold medal. Germany's Laura Dahlmeier set the time to beat early on, but settled for second, while Anais Chevalier of France took home the bronze for her first Individual World Championships medal as well at 25.1 seconds back. Crawford was the top Canuck and second North American with one penalty, finishing 26th.
Men's 10km Sprint
In the Individual men's 10km race the next day, it was American Bailey's chance to show off his years of training. Bailey, 35-years-old and a threetime Olympian, put together a phenomenal performance for the best-ever finish by an American in a 10km sprint at a World Championships with a fourth-place result. Bailey shot clean and skied fast to finish 29.5 seconds out of first and only 6.4 seconds off the bronze-medal position. His fourth is the third-best American finish overall at the IBU World Championships – previously Josh Thompson won silver in the men's 20km Individual in 1987, and Tim Burke achieved the same result in 2013.
Benedikt Doll of Germany shot clean to take the gold in a time of 23.27.4 for his first Individual World Championships title. Doll unseated France's Martin Fourcade and then waited for Johannes Thingnes Boe, who also shot clean, as the Norwegian battled through the final kilometres, but crossed the line 0.7 seconds short, settling for second. Fourcade struggled on the range, as did most of the French team and others, missing one shot in prone and one in standing, yet still skied fast enough to hold onto the bronze.
Women's 10km Pursuit
The women had a day of rest before competing in the 10km Pursuit race on Feb. 12. The U.S.A.'S Dunklee battled back from a tough day in the sprint to finish 22nd. Germany's Dahlmeier defended her title, while Darya Domracheva of Belarus served notice that she is back, claiming the silver. The bronze medal went to Koukalova, who rebounded after some issues with her rifle on the opening prone session on the range.
Men's 12.5km Pursuit
The men's 12.5km Pursuit followed hot on the heels of the women's race. The U.S.A.'S Bailey had fans on the edge of their seats as he left the final standing range in second after shooting clean to deliver yet another a stellar result, claiming a career-best sixth in the event. The gold went to France's Fourcade, who missed his final shot in standing yet cruised to a 22.8-second victory. Norway's Boe overtook his compatriot Ole Einar Bjorndalen for the silver, as the storied Bjorndalen settled for bronze. “In the end, I just didn't have enough,” said Bailey, who suffered one penalty. “It's just so close and there are so many good guys. One more shot, 10 more seconds . . . you know, I could keep going and going, but that's the way it is.”
Canadian Christian Gow at 1:57.3 behind also missed a single shot in standing to move up from 32nd at the start to 23rd at the finish. “Starting today, I didn't feel very good warming up . . . my legs just felt kind of dead . . . but then something changed on the range, and all of a sudden, I just felt fine on my skis. I was pretty hurt, but I am really happy with the race,” he said at the finish.
Women's 15km Individual
Next up was the women's Individual 15km race, and it was a day that saw the U.S.A.'S Dunklee find her form for the rest of the Championships, as she skied well and shot fast to secure sixth place. In the process, Dunklee secured a berth on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. Canada's Ransom continued her breakthrough season with a personal-best 18th-place finish.
It was another golden day for Germany's Dahlmeier, who missed only a single shot in the first prone shooting stage and turned in the fastest
ski time for a comfortable win over Koukalova. The bronze medal went to Alexia Runggaldier of Italy, who made up for a mid-pack ski time with clean shooting.
Men's 20km Individual
The U.S.A.'S Bailey made history in the men's Individual 20km race, winning the first-ever Championship gold medal by an American biathlete. Bailey hit all 20 targets and skied a remarkable final kilometre to edge out Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic by 3.3 seconds. The bronze went to France's Fourcade.
“After the Pursuit and watching the medal go away from me, I replayed this last loop in my head probably 1,000 times the last three days,” said Bailey. “I just told myself if I ever have that chance again, I can't let that medal go away. So I kept saying that in the last loop today.” Bailey put himself in the position to succeed – he was one of only three athletes to shoot clean, the other two being Moravec and his Czech teammate Michal Krcmar. “I am waiting for someone to wake me up. It's all cliches: `it's unbelievable, it's like a dream.' It means so much because of all the hard work that went into this medal and all of the support that I've had; it all has paid off,” added Bailey.
Women's 4x6km Relay
The next event at the IBU World Championships was the relay. The women's 4x6km competition saw a dominant showing by Germany – its fourth relay gold medal this season. Ukraine took the silver at 6.4 seconds back with just four spare rounds, and France took the bronze medal with seven spares. Team USA finished 14th and Canada was 16th on the day.
Of the day's challenging weather, American Dunklee said, “Well, after a couple weeks of sunshine, Mother Nature decided to keep us on our toes and give us a blizzard. 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.”
Men's 4x7.5km Relay
In the men's 4x7.5km relay, Russia stormed to victory with a brilliant anchor leg by Anton Shipulin. France claimed silver, while Austria's Dominik Landertinger found something special in the last kilometre to bury Germany's Simon Schempp for the bronze.
Team USA put on a solid showing with a seventh-place finish, with Canada in 13th. Bailey, fresh off his historic World Championship victory in the 20km Individual race, needed just one spare as he tagged Leif Nordgren in fourth. Nordgren also used one spare and exchanged with Burke in sixth. Using four spares, he made the final exchange, with Doherty in seventh, which he maintained until the finish. “We had a great team performance and I'm proud of what we did,” said Bailey. “Seventh place, and in the mix at the top of the field for most of the race.”
Canada's Christian and Scott Gow, Macx Davies and Green used 10 spares en route to 15th. “As a team, we were hoping for more in our relay today. We all raced consistently well, but at the end of the day, it just wasn't quite enough,” said Green, who skied the anchor leg.
Women's Mass Start
In the women's 12.5km mass-start event, the final women's race of the Championships, the U.S.A.'S Dunklee was inspired by her teammate Bailey and delivered a silver-medal performance, becoming the first American woman to claim a World Championship biathlon medal. Dunklee finished only 4.6 seconds behind Germany's champion biathlete Dahlmeier, whose medal in this event gave her a record five gold medals from the Championships. Finland's Kaisa Makarainen took the bronze at 20.1 seconds back.
“It's a dream come true,” Dunklee, 31, said after the race. “We've believed in the U.S. that we can get these World Championships medals in the past. A [U.S.] woman winning a World Championships medal is a really big thing. We believed that we could get a gold someday, and Lowell did that this week. We just have all this positive momentum going right now.”
Dunklee's perfect shooting on the range coupled with her fast skiing put her in podium contention. Her ski speed on the last lap was not quite enough to match Dahlmeier, who also shot clean for the gold as the women's Championships came to a close.
Men's Mass Start
In the men's 15km mass-start competition, U.S.A.'S Bailey was in the medal hunt again, ultimately claiming sixth. Germany's Schempp took the win, while Norway's Boe overtook Austria's Simon Eder for the silver in the run to the finish.
It wasn't until the final lap that the medals were decided, as Bailey shot clean, posting the third-fastest overall range time of the day and in the lead, but later he ran out of gas. “I was able to hang for four laps, and I just told myself to go as long as I could,” said Bailey. “Unfortunately, I only had four laps, and the fifth was brutal, as they say in Germany. But I'm so psyched with this whole World Champs.”
The American had an incredible Worlds, finishing fourth in the sprint and winning gold in the 20km Individual. Indeed, Bailey has been remarkably consistent, skiing well and shooting close to perfect through these Championships, missing only one shot out of 70 in four Individual races.
(above) Lowell Bailey captured the U.S.A.'S first-ever Biathlon Championship gold medal in the men's individual 20km
(facing left to right) Susan Dunklee wins the the first Individual Biathlon Worlds medal by an American women; Claire Egan (USA) achieves a career best; Germany's Laura Dahlmeier won a record six World Championsip medals.