Susan Dunklee takes surprise silver at world biathlon championships

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As Susan Dunklee watched the top biathletes miss shot after shot, she knew that, if she shot clean, something special was possible at the world biathlon championships.

She did just that.

Dunklee, a two-time U.S. Olympian, earned a surprise silver medal in Friday’s 7.5km sprint, the U.S.’ sixth-ever podium finish at a worlds. She finished in 21 minutes, 19.9 seconds — 6.8 seconds slower than Marte Olsbu Røiseland of Norway, the Olympic silver medalist in the event.

Dunklee matched her mass start silver medal from the 2017 Worlds. She is the only American woman to earn an individual world medal. The U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in biathlon for either gender.

Dunklee was the 34th starter in Friday’s interval order. Ahead of her: Italian Dorothea Wierer, last season’s World Cup champion, had two misses and finished sixth. World Cup leader Tiril Eckhoff of Norway had six misses and placed 59th.

Dunklee was one of four biathletes in the field of 101 to shoot clean over 10 attempts on a windy day in Antholz, Italy. Her best individual World Cup finish the last two seasons was seventh.

“I often get off to a slow start [to the season] and don’t have my best results in December,” she said. “I just have to keep the faith and keep believing I’m capable of this sort of result, and that’s really what biathlon’s about. I think there’s 20 or 30 people on any given day that can be on the podium.”

The top two biathletes at the PyeongChang Olympics — German Laura Dahlmeier and Slovakian Anastasiya Kuzmina — retired after last season.

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MORE: World biathlon championships broadcast schedule