Biathlon Worlds: His­toric Gold for Bai­ley and Sil­ver for Dun­klee

His­toric Gold for Bai­ley and Sil­ver for Dun­klee

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Noah Brautigam

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.

Mixed Re­lay

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.

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