KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Saranac Lake's Annelies Cook placed 54th in the women's 10-kilometer biathlon pursuit race Tuesday night at the fog-filled Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Center.
Cook missed five shots - three prone and two standing - and finished in 36:30.9, nearly 7 minutes behind gold medalist Darya Domracheva of Belarus. Norway's Tora Berger won silver, and Slovenia's Teja Gregorin took the bronze.
"That wasn't the most fun race of my life," Cook said. "I just kind of felt like I was surviving. I was hoping to put together a good performance and just move up and see how I could do, but two misses and just kind of surviving on skis wasn't enough for me at all."
Annelies Cook of Saranac Lake climbs a hill during the 10-kilometer women's biathlon pursuit race at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
(Photo - Competitive Image/Paul Phillips)
Cook said the spring-like conditions on the course were challenging, with deep, rutted snow that made the skiing very tricky.
The 29-year-old first-time Olympian has been battling respiratory problems in the last couple of days. She's developed a hacking cough. Looking ahead to her next race, Friday's 15-kilometer individual, Cook said her goals include "recovering, getting healthy ... just reset the mentality and have a positive attitude."
In the biathlon pursuit, women ski five 2-kilometer laps interspersed with four visits to the shooting range, two prone and two standing. For each missed target, the competitor must ski a 150-meter penalty loop. Start times are determined by how each athlete finished in Sunday's sprint, and the first person to the finish line wins.
As the competitors skied the course Tuesday, the venue was slowly swallowed up by a thick fog, although it largely stayed out of the stadium until the very end of the race.
"We're lucky the fog didn't stop the race midway through," said Susan Dunklee of Barton, Vt., who was the top U.S. finisher in the pursuit. She missed four shots and claimed 18th place, with a time of 31:11.6, roughly 1:40 behind Domracheva. Dunklee lives part-time in Lake Placid while training.
As she did in Sunday's pursuit, Dunklee came within a couple of missed shots of finding the podium. She was running in fifth place after the third round of shooting but missed three of five shots in her final stop at the range, forcing her to ski a trio of 150-meter penalty laps.
Dunklee said she didn't realize how close she was to the race leaders until she entered the range that fourth time.
"I was sitting in fifth with two girls within two seconds ahead of me, and you start thinking, 'What if?'" she said. "You can't start thinking, 'What if?' So I tried to refocus. I hit the first shot, and that was a good sign. I don't know what happened after that."
Still, Dunklee was pleased with her performance.
"The cool thing is I know I can be there on a solid day, and that was not true in the past. We've got lots of races left. We'll see what happens."
In an effort to preserve the snowpack, sections of the course were chemically treated with a kind of salt that melts down, then dissolves and freezes the snow from the top and the bottom. But other sections weren't treated. Dunklee said making the transition between salted and unsalted snow is like "going from skiing on ice cubes to skiing on mashed potatoes."
Sara Studebaker of Boise, Idaho finished 51st with a time of 35:00.0 and five missed shots, three of which came in her first shooting sessions.
"If I could just not have done my first shooting, I would have been really good," she quipped at the finish area. "I had three right away, and you just can't come back from that."