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Olympic biathlon track too short, gets extension

February 7, 2014
By ERIC WILLEMSEN , Associated Press

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Course workers added 40 meters (130 feet) to the biathlon track for the Sochi Olympics today because it was too short.

The loop should measure 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles). Even though a 5 percent deviation is allowed by the rules, the track at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center came up short.

"We had an issue with the length, but we made a change, which takes care of it," biathlon's technical delegate at the Olympics, Max Cobb, said.

Article Photos

Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid skis during a biathlon training session ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics Wednesday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
(AP photo — Felipe Dana)

First doubts about the track length came from the Norwegian team, and they proved it right after IBU officials measured the course on Thursday.

On the World Cup circuit, most courses are inspected four days before the actual competition though IOC rules are different, leaving organizers less time for adaptions if needed.

"It's much too late, and it creates issues," Cobb said. "All of us feel it's the right thing to do, and we still have (one) day before racing."

Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths will compete in Saturday's 10k men's sprint race. Annelies Cook of Saranac Lake is slated to compete in Sunday's 7.5k women's sprint race. The men's pursuit race is Monday, and the women's is Tuesday.

The venue hosted a World Cup biathlon event last year but the shape of the course has been modified since.

The new part of the track will be used in the women's 7.5k sprint on Sunday, and after that in the women's 12.5k mass start, the men's 12.5k pursuit and the three relays.

U.S. head coach Per Nilsson told The Associated Press he was "a little surprised it was a little on the short side."

"It's still the Olympics, so they should have measured that before," Nilsson said. "Five percent (deviation) is allowed, but this felt like a 7k (for the women's 7.5k). It was the right decision they corrected it. Everybody is happy with that."

Another change to the track moved the starting line back by more than 30 meters. In the initial course set, athletes were not given enough time to speed up from the start before approaching a steep hill.

Nilsson called the course "super tough. It will be a big fight."

"In some courses on the World Cup you have big climbs and then you have quite some recovery," Nilsson said. "Here you're down to the bottom in a tough downhill, so you don't recover the legs, and then you have a long, long climb."



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