Burke returns to World Cup action

Paul Smiths native Tim Burke competes in the 20-kilometer individual race Thursday at the opening World Cup event of the season in Ostersund, Sweden.
(Provided photo — NordicFocus/U.S. Biathlon)

Paul Smiths native Tim Burke competes in the 20-kilometer individual race Thursday at the opening World Cup event of the season in Ostersund, Sweden. (Provided photo — NordicFocus/U.S. Biathlon)

After missing the end of last season because of mononucleosis, Tim Burke returned to action Thursday in the opening biathlon World Cup event of the 2017-18 season in Ostersund, Sweden.

Burke, a native of Paul Smiths, was the top American finisher Thursday with a 32nd-place finish in the 20-kilometer individual race. Lowell Bailey, of Lake Placid, took 67th, while teammates Sean Doherty (Center Conway, New Hampshire) was 38th, Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minnesota) took 63rd and Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wisconsin) placed 69th out of 108 racers from around the world.

After the women had to endure a very cold 12 degrees Fahrenheit evening on Wednesday for their 15K, the men got somewhat of a break with the temperature a bit warmer at 23 degrees and the wind staying fairly calm but at times shifting from left to right on the shooting range. The shifting wind limited the clean shooting, with only five men dropping every target, compared to the dozen women Wednesday.

  Burke battled the tricky winds on the shooting range early on, missing seven of his first 10 targets, but settled into a rhythm in the second half of the race which saw him clean his last 10 targets.

“The conditions on the range today were a little windy but it was very doable,” Burke said. “The wind stayed pretty consistent from zero so we were prepared for the race condition. I feel like I was just a bit rusty today in those first two stages. I tried to be a bit too controlling and that never ends up working well for me. During the last two stages I was able to shoot more reaction and I am happy with how that turned out. I will try to remember that feeling for the next races.”

Burke used steady skiing on the Ostersund course to earn his top-40 finish.

  “I am pleased with my skiing today,” he said. “This was definitely not my best performance but it’s a good place to start the season. Unfortunately, we were not able to ski for the 10 days prior to arriving here, so we definitely have less snow time than pretty much everyone that we are competing against. I am hopeful that I will continue to feel better with each race.”

  Burke finished 5 minutes, 24.2 seconds behind winner Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway who covered the course in 53:24.5 with no misses on the range. It was Boe’s 14th career victory but first in the 20K. He left the field more than two minutes behind with French teammates Quentin Fillon Maillet, who also shot clean, and Martin Fourcade, with two penalties, finishing second and third, 2:01 and 2:14.3 back, respectively.

Bailey, the defending world champion in the 20K, was racing in his first event of the season after sitting out Sunday’s relay due to congestion.

  “Tough start,” Bailey said. “I definitely felt a bit stale today, both on the ski course and in the shooting range. With the fresh snow that fell overnight, the conditions were really challenging and I definitely didn’t feel like I was at my best on the tracks. I’ll regroup tomorrow and start looking toward the next race on Saturday.”

The World Cup in Ostersund continues today with the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint. On the start list for the U.S. team are Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vermont), Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) and Emily Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vermont).

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