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Posts Tagged ‘Relay’

Biathlon Roundup: An Engagement, A Baby, Relay Quotes, and the U26 Roster

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

-Two Canadian biathletes had a few more words to say about their teams’ relay performances in Antholz-Anterselva, Italy, this weekend. The first was Brendan Green, who scrambled for the men’s team. Despite being their top-ranked athlete in the overall World Cup standings, Green used five spare rounds to hit his ten targets and tagged off in 13th. He was sick, and said that he “was just happy to make it through the day,” but that didn’t explain his shooting.

“Conditions yesterday were perfect, so I have no excuse for my shooting and having to use as many spare round as I did,” he told FasterSkier in an e-mail. “It’s frustrating but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Thankfully the other guys were able to perform solid and keep us in the running throughout the race.”

-The top-ranked Canadian woman, Zina Kocher, explained that both Rosanna Crawford and Melanie Schultz had also been sick the previous week, making a top relay finish far from a sure thing. But the women came through and finished ninth, tying their best in the last few years.

“We’ve done two relays this year and both relays have been consistent solid races finishing 9th,” Kocher said. “Yesterday we were so close to 7th and 8th, that a top 8 is possible for us. A few less spare rounds in the range would have had us there.”

She said that the uncharacteristically high number of spare rounds used by the field might have had something to do with the altitude, which at roughly 3400 feet is the highest on the circuit.

“Shooting conditions were pretty good, but I think the altitude in Antholz, and the range approach can make it difficult for clean shooting here,” she said. “It can take athletes by surprise.”

-The U.S. women were less pleased with their 13th-place finish in the relay. Susan Dunklee had this to say:

“To have a good relay, four people have to have decent shooting and decent skiing all on the same day. That’s a lot of pieces that need to come together. We know we have the ability to place in the top ten in this field- the most important relay of the season is World Championships, and that is still to come.”

-Dunklee’s relay teammate Annelies Cook recently got engaged to Pat Coffey, who coaches developing and national team athletes in Lake Placid. Congrats, you two!

-2006 Olympican Carolyn Treacy Bramante and her husband Anthony Bramante, meanwhile, welcomed a son named Leo to the world this weekend. Congrats again!

-Finally, the Under-26/Open European Championships are set to kick off in Brezno-Osrblie, Slovakia on Friday. The U.S. will field a team including Laura Spector, Hannah Dreissigacker, Russell Currier, Leif Nordgren, Mark Johnson, and Casey Smith. The event is not a part of Canada’s national team program this year.

Italy Wins Men’s Biathlon Relay, U.S. 11th

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Two days, two types of less-than-ideal conditions in Oberhof, Germany. Today brought a snowstorm and huge gusts of wind which led to an uncharacteristically high number of missed shots in the World Cup men’s biathlon relay.

At the end of the night, Italy had collected just five penalties, the least in the field, and took the win by six seconds over Russia; although Italy was often close, the Russians had led almost the whole race until Lukas Hofer passed Alexey Volkov just before the last shooting stage.

There was a large gap to third, which presented a battle in the final leg as well. Ard Peiffer of Germany missed too many shots in the final stage and lost his hold on third place, while Carl Johan Bergman of Sweden upped the ante and extended his lead over the last two kilometers to secure a spot on the podium.

The U.S. had a strong start to the race, with Lowell Bailey using just two spare rounds to tag off in fifth. However, Jay Hakkinen – like many of his competitors – struggled with the windy conditions on the range and ended up skiing three penalty loops, dropping the team out of the top ten. Tim Burke skied the fourth-fastest time on the third leg, and used four spare rounds to bring the Americans into eighth, before anchor Leif Nordgren hit the penalty loop and the team returned to 11th.

Complete writeup to follow; results here.

No Surprises: Norway Runs Away With Women’s Relay

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

After Marianna Longa of Italy finished the first leg of the women’s 4 x 5 k World Championships relay in first place, Therese Johaug took the lead in the second leg, and she and her teammates never looked back. Kristin Stoermer Steira extended Norway’s lead to over 30 seconds and Marit Bjoergen was unchallenged as the anchor; she looked in control and paused in the stadium to grab a flag before crossing the finish line.

The Swedish team of Ida Ingmarsdotter, Anna Haag, Britta Johansson Norgren and Charlotte Kalla were second at every exchange. Finland was third at every exchange; going into the last leg, the two teams were separated by only a second, but Kalla attacked almost immediately and by the finish had put more than 20 seconds on Krista Lahteenmaki, the Finnish anchor.

Italy had one of the wildest rides of the day, dropping from first to eighth on the second leg before skiing back up to finish fourth.

The Americans overcame a rough start to finish ninth, while Canada was fourteenth.

Full writeup to follow.

U.S. Women Have Best Biathlon Relay In Two Years

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Spector racing in the sprint on Friday. Photo: Viktoria Franke/USBA.

The American team of Sara Studebaker, Annelies Cook, Laura Spector, and Haley Johnson finished 13th in the World Cup relay in Antholz, Italy on Saturday morning, the best U.S. relay result for a women’s team since March 2009 in Vancouver, Canada.

The relay was made possible by Cook, who stayed in Europe after the end of her IBU Cup campaign last weekend. The U.S. is only allowed three quota spots in the women’s field, so Cook was not allowed to race any of the individual races. However, she performed well as the second skier in the relay, moving the team up to sixth position after a clean prone stage. She used two spare rounds in standing, and dropped to 13th by the time she tagged off to Spector.

Overall, the women avoided the penalty loop and only used nine spare rounds; only the winning Russian team and the seventh-place Kazakhs shot better. Spector and Johnson also shot clean in prone.

“The relay today was really exciting,” Studebaker told FasterSkier. “We had a solid result as a team and I was very happy with my leg. It’s always exciting to scramble, and here it’s especially crazy because there are several little bumps on the course that cause stopping and bunching up of the group. It was pretty tricky wind for most of us, and I think we all did a good job of dealing with it. For me, it was a great way to end the trip. I felt good skiing and solid about my shooting.  And relays are always just fun since you have your whole team rooting for you!”

According to Russian anchor leg Olga Zaitseva, her team has finally found its form after a slow start to the season.

“As the Belarusians told us after the competition, ‘finally, you are back,’” she said in a press conference. “We are back; doing well now. We probably were not ready for the previous relays, but we are okay now. All of the girls did very well today and knew that if we did well today, everything would be good in the coming competitions.”

Sweden finished second, almost a minute back. The Germans, who were probably the favorites going into today’s race, had a tough day on the range, using 13 spare rounds and still hitting the penalty loop four times. They finished third despite their shooting woes. Anchor leg Andrea Henkel called it a “courageous and adventurous race for us.”

Full results

Bjoergen Leads Norway to Relay Gold

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Lightning. Bears. Concrete walls.

Those are a few things that might be able to stop Norway’s Marit Bjoergen right now. Mere mortals from Italy, Finland, and Germany? Fat chance.

Taking the tag from Kristin Stormer Steira with Italy hot on her heels, Bjoergen laid down a blazingly fast final leg—dropping Sabina Valbusa on the first climb and skiing away, uncontested, to her third gold medal of these Games, and Norway’s first in the women’s relay in 26 years.

The real battle unfolded behind, as the chase pack of Finland, Sweden, and Germany quickly swallowed up Valbusa. Without a single medal for her country from the 2010 Games thus far, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) was out for blood, driving the pace hard for her two laps of the 2.5 kilometer course. Only Germany’s Claudia Nystad could hang on, passing the Finn on the final climb to take silver, while Saarinen held on for the bronze.

How it Unfolded

With Bjoergen anchoring, Norway may have been the favorite, but their coaches couldn’t take anything for granted until Vibeke Skofterud made it through the first leg unscathed.

Italy and Germany led things out up the first big climb, with the pack still together. Kikkan Randall sat in the second row, just next to Skofterud.

Skiing aggressively, Randall still sat in the lead group on her second lap, then used a fast pair of skis to gap the rest of the field on the course’s biggest downhill. Anna Olsson (SWE), Skofterud, and Katrin Zeller (GER) made up the ground on the climb before the stadium, but Randall still came into the stadium with the leaders, tagging off to Holly Brooks in fourth place—just ten seconds back.

Brooks didn’t have the legs today, though, and she quickly fell off the back. She said afterwards that she’s worried her health problems from the summer (see may have resurfaced, and she spoke to the team doctor about doing some testing to figure out what’s wrong.

“It was really fun having Kikkan come in in such a strong position,” Brooks said. “There was a little pressure going into that, but I just know that can ski a lot faster than I’m skiing right now, and it’s pretty frustrating.”

At the front, Norway, Italy, and Germany were still together, while Sweden’s Magdalena Pajala was gapped going up the big climb on her first lap.

As the three leaders duked it out up ahead, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk was working her way back from the 18-second deficit she’d inherited from her teammate, Kornelia Marek. Echoing yesterday’s spectacular second leg by Lukas Bauer (CZE), Kowalczyk made up all the ground Marek had lost, then just kept on going.

No one could respond when she came by—Marianna Longa (ITA), Therese Johaug (NOR), and Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle (GER) couldn’t hold on, and the lead group shattered. Kowalczyk’s leg ended up being nearly thirty seconds faster than anyone else’s, and she tagged off to Paulina Maciuszek with a ten-second lead.

Which promptly evaporated. Maciuszek was no match for the power of Norway’s Kristin Stormer Steira and Italy’s Silvia Rupil, as that pair caught her and dropped her almost in the same breath.

Meanwhile, after a miserable first leg, Finland’s Riitta-Liisa Roponen had worked her way back to a chase group, which included Sweden, Germany, and France. Led by Charlotte Kalla (SWE)—who turned in the fastest split of the leg—that group stayed within striking distance of Steira and Rupil, coming through the exchange just fifteen seconds behind.

But with Bjoergen anchoring Norway, the most any of those teams could hope for was silver or bronze. While Italy and Norway came into the exchange together, Bjoergen was gone before Valbusa could say “arrivederci.” Bjoergen gapped the Italian going up the first climb out of the stadium, and was off to her third gold of the Games. Despite coming to a full stop before the finish to pick up a Norwegian flag, and skiing the last hundred meters with no poles, she still had the fastest time of her leg.

After being dropped by Bjoergen, Valbusa was fading hard. The chase group behind her was gaining, led by a ferocious Saarinen. As the Finn V2-ed her way up the course’s big climbs, it didn’t seem like there was any way that Germany’s Claudia Nystad or Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter could hold on, and indeed, Ingemarsdotter came off on the last lap—just as the trio caught and passed Valbusa. But Nystad hung tough, and somehow found the energy to go by Saarinen on the final climb and ski in for silver.

Anchored by Caitlin Compton, the U.S. finished 12th on the day. Like Brooks, Compton said that she wasn’t at her best today, and also may have had trouble with her skis, according to Zach Caldwell, one of the members of the U.S. service staff. Canada was 14th.

Full report to come!