Changing and challenging weather conditions made for a frustrating 4x7.5 kilometer World Cup biathlon relay Thursday for Team USA's men in Ruhpolding, Germany.
With its top-ranked biathlete, Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, sidelined due to illness, Team USA finished 14th with a time of 1:17:06, trailing first-place France by 3 minutes, 54 seconds. Norway was second in 1:13:20.6 and Austria was third with a time of 1:13:20.9.
Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid opened strong on the first leg for Team USA, cleaning prone and taking the team to seventh place early in the race. Bailey needed an extra round in standing, but tagged off to Leif Norgdren in eighth place.
Heavy rain impacted the course on the second leg, but Nordgren cleaned prone with one extra round to rise to fifth place. In standing, Nordgren missed two shots, but cleaned the stage with two extra rounds to leave the range in second place. Heavy rain turned to heavy snow, as Nordgren dropped to seventh place tagging off to Russell Currier.
Currier struggled in prone, taking two penalty loops and dropping to 10th place. In standing, Currier cleaned the stage using extra rounds and left the range in 17th, tagging off to Jay Hakkinen in 16th place.
Hakkinen cleaned both prone and standing bringing the team up to 13th but fell back to 14th, just five seconds behind the Czech Republic.
"Leif Nordgren's leg time of 18:15 was the 10th best of the day among all legs of all the teams," said US Biathlon President and CEO Max Cobb. "Leif was fast both on the range and on the course and moved the team up to second place after his standing. That was a world class performance in some very difficult conditions."
"I was very happy to race in today's relay, especially since the level of the team has risen to where we are competing for the podium," said Hakkinen. "I wanted to put in a good performance, and I was pleased I could shut out any outside distractions and focus on hitting all my targets."
The World Cup event in Ruhpolding continues today with women's 7.5k sprint. Susan Dunklee will start with bib 5 and Annelies Cook of Saranac Lake with bib 24.