Tim Burke

Getty Images

Three more biathletes qualify for U.S. Olympic team

Leave a comment

Tim BurkeSean Doherty and Clare Egan make it five biathletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team.

The trio clinched berths with the conclusion of the fall World Cups in France this weekend. There is one more set of mass-start races Sunday, but no U.S. biathletes not already qualified are entered.

Burke and Doherty join world champion Lowell Bailey via top-30 finishes this season. Egan joins world silver medalist Susan Dunklee as the other top-finishing U.S. woman this season.

Burke is the biggest name of the trio. The 35-year-old former standard bearer of U.S. biathlon is going to his fourth Olympics.

Burke was once the hope to win the first U.S. Olympic medal in biathlon, the only Winter Olympic sport where the U.S. has yet to make a podium.

He led the World Cup overall standings in 2009 and won a 2013 World Championships silver medal but hasn’t been better than 18th individually at the Winter Games.

Bailey, also going to his fourth Olympics, succeeded Burke as the top U.S. man in recent seasons. Burke’s best World Cup finish since Sochi was sixth.

Doherty was the first U.S. teenage biathlete to compete at an Olympics in 2014 at age 18. He only competed in the relay in Sochi but has since grown to become the No. 2 American behind Bailey this season.

Doherty ranked No. 71 in last year’s World Cup standings. This season, he’s No. 27.

Egan will go to her first Olympics at age 31. She made her World Cup debut in 2015 and finished 20th and 22nd in two races at last season’s world championships.

The rest of the U.S. Olympic biathlon team — up to 10 biathletes total — will be determined in January.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. Olympic team roster

Team USA’s hunt for elusive Olympic biathlon medal continues in Sochi

Tim Burke
Leave a comment

The U.S. has never been able to claim an Olympic biathlon medal. However, going into Sochi, a handful of Americans appear capable of finally ending their country’s drought in the sport.

As a 2013 world championship silver medalist and the first American ever to lead the sport’s World Cup, Tim Burke (pictured) will lead the charge.

But he won’t be alone. Like Burke, Lowell Bailey is a seasoned, three-time Olympian. And on the women’s side, Susan Dunklee has momentum after claiming the best-ever World Cup finish by a U.S. female biathlete last month.

The biathlon competition is set to begin on Saturday with the men’s 10km sprint. NBC Olympics’ Steve Schlanger and Chad Salmela set the stage from Laura Biathlon and Ski Complex in their Subway Fresh Take, over on NBCOlympics.com.

MORE: Mixed day for U.S. in team figure skating

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

Leave a comment

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”

For complete results, click here.

Biathlete Tracy Barnes gives up her Olympic team spot to twin sister