Susan Dunklee

Susan Dunklee 4th in Antholz sprint, best women’s biathlon World Cup finish ever for U.S.

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When Susan Dunklee woke up this morning, her outlook was positive, as always, but something felt different.

“I don’t typically buy into gut feelings because you can set yourself up for failure when you want it too badly,” Dunklee said. “But when I woke up and went on my morning jog, I really felt like all of the pieces were going to come together.”

For the first time in her career, everything clicked for Dunklee.

The 26-year-old Vermont native survived the tough skiing conditions at altitude and was exceptional in the shooting range to finish fourth in the women’s 7.5km sprint in Antholz, Italy, the best-ever World Cup finish by an American female biathlete, in the final event before the Sochi Olympics.

The race was won by Anais Bescond of France, her country’s first World Cup winner as an individual competitor since Sandrine Bailly in March of 2008. Bescond crossed in 20:30.2. Germany’s Andrea Henkel finished second in 20:36.9. Darya Domracheva of Belarus was third in 20:40.3, six-tenths ahead of Dunklee.

Behind Dunklee, the next highest American finisher was Sara Studebaker, who came in 57th. Annelies Cook finished 70th while Hannah Dreissigacker was unable to finish.

“Finishing a half second off the podium is probably the most exciting part of the performance,” Dunklee said in a phone interview after the race. “It’s good motivation. As for it being the best finish ever by an American, I think it might be a while before that sinks in. But I always knew I was capable of these types of results.”

Indeed, this wasn’t the first time that Dunklee has flirted with the top of the event standings. In 2012, she finished fifth in the women’s 15km individual in Ruhpolding, Germany.

“Today was similar to Ruhpolding in a lot of ways,” she said. “You’re doing your thing for the first loop and then in the last loop you start getting the splits from your coaches and an awareness of where you stand out on the course. It’s kind of a surreal sensation, especially when your body is hurting like crazy and you’re fighting for every second.

“But I think the experience in Ruhpolding helped me today in terms of being able to handle the pressure of knowing where I was sitting. In Ruhpolding, I remember hearing that I was in first place at one point and I got this shot of adrenaline to the heart that almost stopped me cold. Today, hearing my position, everything felt more routine.”

Where Dunklee was particularly strong in Antholz was with the rifle in her hand. She shot clean through the prone stage, hitting all five targets with no misses, to position herself inside the Top 10. But it was her clean shooting in the standing stage — only 21 of 100 finishers shot cleanly on their feet – which put her in medal contention. She was just three-tenths behind Bescond after the second shooting stage.

“I’ve actually been struggling a lot recently with my standing shooting,” Dunklee said. “I would shoot cleanly through prone and set myself up for a nice result but then miss a couple targets standing and have to ski the penalty loops, which is disappointing. It’s been like that for two or three weeks now, but today I felt more like I was out hunting the targets. In practice the last couple of days I was really relaxed and hitting all of my targets. So I just focused on the process and tried to make things as routine as possible.”

That process – things like taking the rifle off your shoulders, finding a good spot on the mat, feeling the pressure of the trigger – included the added step of taking additional breaths before pulling the trigger because of the physical stress felt skiing at altitude in Antholz. Dunklee said that same principles will apply at the Sochi Games, where the Laura Cross-Country Ski & Biathlon Center is at 5,905-feet of elevation.

Dunklee added that the similarity between these two courses ends there.

“The course is quite different in Sochi,” she said. “The climbs here are not as long and steep as they will be at the Olympics. I am actually better at long grinding climbs that separate the field. Today’s key was more about working on getting transitions right.”

With the start of the Olympics now three weeks away, Dunklee said her performance should provide her with a boost of confidence.

It will undoubtedly also be seen as another positive sign, along with Tim Burke’s silver medal at the 2013 World Championships, that the U.S. might be poised to win its first ever biathlon medal in the sport at the Games. It is the only sport in which the U.S. has failed to do so.

“It’s an interesting discussion I have had a lot with our USOC sports psychologist,” Dunklee said. “It’s nice to be an underdog and not get a lot of media attention, but on other hand it is good to be in this position and get practice dealing with pressure and the confidence of being up there with the best.

“I’m sure this will get people talking again, but I am going to try to be prepared and do the work and not worry about what the result is going to be”

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Tori Bowie runs fastest 100m ever this early in a year; Diamond League recap

Tori Bowie
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Tori Bowie, primarily a long jumper until two years ago, began to make her case as Olympic 100m favorite in the Diamond League season opener in Doha on Friday.

Bowie won in 10.80 seconds, the fastest-ever time this early in a year. The clocking matched the soft-spoken Mississippi native’s personal best.

Bowie was the world’s fastest woman in 2014, her first season as a full-time sprinter, and earned the World Championships 100m bronze medal last August.

At Worlds, she finished behind Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers.

In Doha, Bowie beat Schippers (10.83) and Worlds fourth-place finisher Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.91) with a .7 meter/second tailwind, easily within the legal limit of 2.0.

“I’m a much better runner now than I was last season,” Bowie said, according to the IAAF.

Fraser-Pryce, the two-time reigning Olympic and World champion, bettered 10.80 three times last year, including a 10.76 to win the World title.

Fraser-Pryce was not in Doha and hasn’t raced a 100m yet this year but is entered in a Jamaican meet Saturday.

In other events Friday, Caster Semenya notched her first Diamond League win since 2011, taking the 800m in 1:58.26, the fastest time in the world this year.

Semenya, who won the 2009 World title and 2012 Olympic silver, is best known for a gender-testing controversy of 2009 and 2010. The South African struggled since the London Games, failing to make the 2015 Worlds final, but on Friday breezed into the lead with about 60 meters left and opened a comfortable winning margin of .88.

“I can’t say there have been many changes in my training or my attitude,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF.

Semenya’s resurgence has come since a July decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that suspended for two years an IAAF ruling in 2011 that regulated women’s testosterone levels for competition eligibility.

Semenya has performed well at various times before the 2011 ruling, during the regulation period and now without the regulation.

In the 110m hurdles, Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt took sixth place in 13.37 seconds in his first Diamond League race since a Sept. 1 kidney transplant. Jamaican Omar McLeod prevailed in 13.05, the fastest time in the world this year.

Beijing Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt won a 400m in 44.41. Merritt took silver at 2015 Worlds behind South African Wayde van Niekerk, who clocked 44.11 in Bloemfontein earlier Friday.

Ameer Webb looked like a man who will make his first Olympic team in the 200m, winning in a personal-best 19.85 seconds. Webb, 26, had not broken 20 seconds until this year. He’s now done it in consecutive meets.

The Doha 200m did not include World medalists Usain BoltJustin Gatlin or Anaso Jobodwana. Webb’s time on Friday would have taken bronze at Worlds and ranks him No. 3 among Americans since the London Olympics. Only Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt have been faster in that span.

The Diamond League continues in Shanghai on May 14.

MORE: U.S. sprinters past, present trade relay barbs

Doctor auctions Michael Jordan’s Olympic shoes, Dream Team ball

Michael Jordan shoes
Heritage Auctions
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As the team physician for the Dream Team, Dr. David Fischer was up close with the most star-studded team ever assembled as they rolled through the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Nearly 25 years later, Fischer has decided to let other fans and collectors share that experience.

Fischer has put almost all of the memorabilia he acquired during that historic summer up for auction, providing a rare chance for people to get their hands on some unique pieces from the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team that helped the NBA reach into households the world over.

“This was such a unique team,” Fischer told The Associated Press. “It was the greatest sports team ever put together. There are other basketball fans and collectors out there. It’s just a good time to let other people enjoy them.”

The team was assembled to reclaim the U.S.’ place atop the basketball hierarchy after the Americans finished third in the Seoul Games in 1988. For the first time, NBA players were allowed to compete for the United States, and the result was a collection of talent unlike any other.

Michael Jordan just reaching the height of his powers. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and David Robinson in the primes of their careers. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird nearing the end of theirs. The group inspired a young generation of players, captivated a global audience and had opponents asking to take pictures at center court before the game started.

“Every shoe that I handle, every basketball brings back a very vivid memory of the exact time and circumstances around that,” Fischer said.

Fischer has made available for bid a pair of game-worn, autographed shoes from nearly the entire roster, the Dream Team Olympic championship ring he was awarded after they won the gold medal, a host of other memorabilia signed by the entire team, including basketballs and photographs and the gold medal from the Tournament of Americas qualifying event that took place prior to the Olympics.

Despite the crush of marketing surrounding the team at the time, Jordan, Bird, Magic and the rest of them were only together for a short summer run, which makes the most collectible items involving the team harder to come by.

“With players of this caliber, their stuff is not coming to market anytime soon,” said Chris Ivy, the director of sports memorabilia auctions for Heritage Auctions, the auction house that is handling the process.

What makes Fischer’s collection potentially more valuable, Ivy said, was what collectors call provenance. In an age of skyrocketing values for sports memorabilia, collectors and auction houses can sometimes have difficulty validating the authenticity of an item. But because Fischer was a member of the team and is the original owner of the items, the authenticity is unquestioned.

“There were a lot of people that were seeking material from the team at the time and I’m sure some of it made it out there,” Ivy said. “But having it come from someone like this is great. I don’t expect Barkley or Magic or Jordan or Bird or players of that caliber to be offering their personal material anytime soon. So this is a great opportunity.”

The auction has already started online at http://www.ha.com and will continue until 10 p.m. on May 13, at which point anyone who has placed a bid on an item will be able to participate in an “extended bid” process. Once a bid has stood for 30 minutes, the item will be awarded to the winner.

Ivy estimated that the entire package of items could fetch between $150,000-200,000. The most sought after items, Ivy said, figure to be Jordan’s game-worn shoes, Fischer’s Olympic ring and a special basketball signed by the entire team that was only given to members of the team.

“I have to live with the reality they are going to belong to someone else,” Fischer said. “Whatever the value is, that’s determined by the people that want to buy them, not by me.”

MORE: Larry Bird, Kim Zmeskal remember Olympic bus meeting in 1992

Dream Team
AP