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Dunklee joins Bailey in biathlon history books

February 20, 2017
By Craig Bohnert - TeamUSA.org , Lake Placid News

HOCHFILZEN, Austria - When the 2017 biathlon world championships began, Team USA had two "nevers" looming that the team could have only hoped to erase in its wildest dreams, on the athletes' most perfect days. American men had never won a gold medal, and American women had never earned an individual medal of any color at either the worlds or the Olympic Games. Now both have been erased.

Lowell Bailey, of Lake Placid, wiped away the first with his stunning victory in the men's 20-kilometer individual Thursday, and Susan Dunklee has given Team USA its first-ever women's individual medal by taking silver in Sunday's 12.5-kilometer mass start in Hochfilzen, Austria.

Four days after qualifying for her second Olympic team, Dunklee crossed the finish line in 33:18.4. Propelled by a perfect performance on the shooting range, Dunklee was only 4.6 seconds behind Germany's Laura Dahlmeier, who has dominated the women's competition with five golds this meet. Finland's Kaisa Makarainen took the bronze in 33:33.9.

Article Photos

Susan Dunklee crosses the finish line to capture the silver medal in the 12.5-kilometer mass start Sunday at the world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria.
(Photo — NordicFocus/US Biathlon)

"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.

"I think watching Lowell win his gold the other day really inspired me. A couple of years ago, he got his first (world cup) podium in (Kontiolahti, Finland), and one week later I got my first podium in (Oslo, Norway), and I thought of that a couple days ago when he won. I'm like, 'Wow, there goes Lowell, he did it again; maybe I could get a world champs medal too."

Both Bailey and Dunklee hope to turn their world championships success into Olympic success in one year's time. Biathlon is the only sport where Team USA has never medaled at the Games, and that may change with the success the U.S. team had last week. The two athletes, who are the first two of any sport to qualify for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, combined for a total of five top-six finishes.

Dunklee, the daughter of two-time Olympic cross-country skier Stan Dunklee and niece of 1972 Olympic cross-country skier Everett Dunklee, had a previous best worlds finish of fifth earned at her debut in 2012 in the individual race.

Since her Olympic debut in 2014, Dunklee has hit her stride. She won her first world cup medal, a bronze in Holmenkollen, Norway, that season, and followed that up with a silver in February 2016 in Presque Isle, Maine, and a bronze in December of that year in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. All three medals came in the 7.5K sprint, now proving she is a medal threat in multiple races.

Team USA's only other women's biathlon worlds medal is the relay bronze earned in 1984 by Holly Beatie, Julie Newman and Kari Swensen at the first women's world championships.

"I spent my last lap looking at the jumbo screens every chance I got to see where Susan was," said teammate Clare Egan, who finished 24th. "I heard on the loudspeaker that she had hit 20-for-20 so I knew she would medal. No one works harder, and today no one shot better. It has been a historic week for U.S. Biathlon. I hope this inspires other American cross-country skiers to try our sport."

In the men's 15K mass start later in the day, Bailey made a serious run for Team USA's third medal of the World Championships as he too hit all 20 targets and was in the lead group for much of the race. He left the range after the final standing shoot in bronze-medal position, nine seconds ahead of Norway's Johannes Thingnes Boe. However, the frenetic pace of the race finally caught up to Bailey and he had nothing left in the tank to challenge for the podium on the final loop. He faded to sixth at the finish, 33.5 seconds behind the gold medalist, Germany's Simon Schempp.

"It was an incredibly great race," Schempp said. "I raced tactically and saved up some energy for the last lap."

Hours earlier, Dahlmeier became the first athlete to earn five gold medals at a single biathlon world championship by winning the 12.5K women's event.

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U.S. men seventh in relay

HOCHFILZEN, Austria - The U.S. men's relay team put on a solid showing with a seventh-place finish Saturday in the 4x7.5-kilometer race at the world championships in Hochfilzen. The foursome of Lowell Bailey, Leif Nordgren, Tim Burke and Sean Doherty finished 1 minute, 50.5 seconds behind the gold-medal winning team from Russia.

Bailey, fresh off his historic world championship victory in Thursday's 20K individual race, kicked off the relay for the American squad with a strong effort. He needed just one spare in prone and cleaned from the standing position to momentarily put U.S. in fourth place, just 2.7 seconds off the pace as he left the range. He maintained the fourth-place position when he tagged off to Nordgren, but had lost 10 seconds to the leaders.

"It felt good to get back to why I do this sport: to race," Bailey said. "It's been a whirlwind of activity off the biathlon track over the last couple of days, but Biathlon World Championships is still going forward, and I still have one more race (Sunday)."

Nordgren, of Marine, Minnesota, continued the impressive showing for the American contingent as he cleaned from prone to put the team neck-and-neck with Germany for the lead as he exited the range. Despite needing one spare in the standing stage, Nordgren maintained contact with the leaders as he made the exchange to Burke, of Paul Smiths, in sixth place, still just 17.7 seconds from the front.

"I was pretty happy with my leg today," Nordgren said. "It was a fun race for sure. I was right in the mix from the start today and I was able to hold my own even on the last lap. I had absolutely amazing skis which helped a lot because the conditions were less than ideal. The snow that came overnight was really wet and a lot of the track was a mess today, but I just let my skis do the work and that made a big difference."

Burke held his position through the prone shoot, where he needed just one spare, and kept the team in medal contention just 38 seconds off the pace, but three spare rounds in the standing shoot dashed the hopes for a podium finish.

Burke made the final exchange with Doherty in seventh place, 1:01 behind now, and Doherty found himself in no man's land - 30 seconds behind Ukraine and 20 seconds ahead of Norway. Skiing alone all the way to the prone stage, Doherty used two spares but then cleaned the standing stage putting him just three seconds behind Ukraine's Dmytro Pidruchnyi leaving the range. However, he couldn't overtake the Pidruchnyi in the final kilometers.

Anton Shipulin's brillliant anchor leg, with strong skiing and equally good shooting, brought Russia and teammates Alexey Volkov, Maxim Tsvetkov and Anton Babikov the gold medal in the men's relay. Russia used just three spares in their winning time of 1:14:15. France, with Jean Guillaume Beatrix, Quentin Fillon Maillet, Simon Desthieux and Martin Fourcade, won the silver medal with four spares, 20.8 seconds back. The Austrian team of Daniel Mesotitsch, Julian Eberhard, Simon Eder and Dominik Landertinger repeated their historic performance at the 2005 World Championships in Hochfilzen, winning the bronze medal despite ten spare rounds.

"We had a great team performance and I'm proud of what we did," Bailey said. "Seventh place, and in the mix at the top of the field for most of the race."

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Wrong music? Russian biathletes sing correct anthem alone

HOCHFILZEN, Austria (AP) - Russian biathletes decided to sing their national anthem without any instrumental accompaniment after organizers played an outdated version in an embarrassing medal ceremony at the biathlon world championships.

The ceremony was interrupted when it became clear that the old version of the anthem was being used to honor Russia's victory in Saturday night's 4x7.5-kilometer relay.

However, Alexey Volkov, Maxim Tsvetkov, Anton Babikov and Anton Shipulin didn't wait for the correct version to be played and started singing their national anthem unaccompanied.

The incident came just one week after the United States Tennis Association had to apologize after an outdated version of the German national anthem was performed before a Fed Cup quarterfinal match in Hawaii.

 
 

 

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