Lake Placid’s Van Ledger wraps up with best individual finish

Van Ledger of the United States competes during Men’s Biathlon 15k at the 2023 FISU World University Games on January 20, 2023 in Lake Placid, New York. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/FISU Games)

LAKE PLACID — Prior to the start of the FISU Winter World University Games, Van Ledger said his goal was to qualify for the men’s biathlon 15K mass start.

Not only did Ledger, a Lake Placid native and chemical engineering student at Montana State University, qualify for the event — it was his best individual finish of the Games. He took 11th place overall out of 30th biathletes, finishing in a time of 42 minutes, 7.3 seconds on Saturday, Jan. 21 at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

France’s Axel Garnier was the overall winner, finishing with a time of 39:53.7. Garnier’s performance earned him his first gold medal of the games. He previously won both a silver and a bronze.

Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Mukhin placed second in 40:18.5, while Norway’s Oerjan Moseng was third in 40:26.0.

Ledger rose to the occasion right away, finishing clean from his first three shooting stages. Ledger said it was such a good feeling to start 15-for-15 from the shooting stage.

Van Ledger poses with his parents Patrick and Jennifer Ledger, of Lake Placid, Saturday, Jan. 21 after the 2023 FISU World University Games men’s biathlon mass start. (News photo — Peter Crowley)

“I always tell people that’s the best part about biathlon,” Ledger said. “When you can come right through and go right past the penalty loop and onto the course.”

After hitting his first 15 shots, Ledger held a second place position heading onto the cross-country course.

“Those first three stages shooting felt so good,” Ledger said. “There wasn’t really any point on the course where I felt beat. I felt like I could push all the way through.”

In his final shooting stage, Ledger missed two shots, forcing him to take two penalty loops which allowed others to pass by him and dropped him from a potential podium finish to just one spot shy of a top-10 finish.

Saturday’s event marked the final biathlon competition in the Games. Throughout the week, Ledger has posted great results, finishing as either the best American biathlete or the second-best in all five competitions he competed in.

“This is the first time I’ve had this many competitions all in one week and to be able to feel better in each one as I go through the week,” Ledger said. “It’s so good to do this because it’s more like what they do in the World Cup. So I was like, ‘OK, I can go through this and still feel good. It just bodes well for the future.”

Team USA’s Bjorn Westervelt, who won the gold medal in Thursday’s men’s 12.5K pursuit competition, finished in eight place overall in 41:11.1 on Saturday. The rest of the U.S. team was rounded out by Tim Cobb (46:53.2) in 27th and Paul Smith’s College student Nathan Livingood (46:55.6) in 28th.

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