Burke skis to career best
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Tim Burke vaulted up 30 spots from his start position to turn in a career-best Olympic finish of 17th in the men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit on Monday at the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.
Starting 47th in the 60-man field, the Paul Smiths native conquered the prevailing winds at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre shooting range, incurring just two penalties, and crossing the line 2 minutes, 19.6 seconds behind winner Martin Fourcade of France. The performance eclipsed Burke’s previous Olympic-best finish of 18th in the mass start at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
“I’m very happy with the race,” Burke said. “I feel like I really put it together for the opportunities I was given in the race today.”
Burke, who clocked the sixth-best net time in the field, was quick to point out the changing weather conditions at the shooting range and how some were fortunate while others were not.
“This is normal biathlon,” Burke said. “You see they can restart the (alpine) downhill and move it to a different day. We can’t do that in biathlon. We have too many events so we have to go on these days when it’s honestly unfair conditions. Like today, I benefitted a lot from having basically little wind at my standing stages and was able to move up a lot. Others I know were not so lucky and unfortunately that’s part of outdoor sport.”
One of those who came into the range at an unfortunate time was Burke’s teammate, Lowell Bailey, of Lake Placid. After cleaning both of his prone stages, Bailey found himself waiting out the wind in his first standing stage.
“That third stage was just absolutely ridiculous,” Bailey said. “In zero there was nothing longer than 20 seconds of those big gusts. That time it was like two minutes. I got through about 40 seconds of standing there waiting, time bleeding off the clock, and at that point I just started pulling the trigger because I couldn’t hold on the target. You just have to do your best at that point.”
Bailey suffered three penalties in that stage and two more in the final standing stage to place 32nd. Teammate Leif Nordgren, of Minnesota, also with five penalties, placed 50th.
Fourcade won with a single penalty, crossing the line in 32:51.7 for his third career Olympic gold medal. Sebastian Samuelsson of Sweden won the battle for the silver medal over Germany’s Benedikt Doll. Samuelsson finished 12 seconds back of Fourcade, while Doll was 15.1 seconds behind.
In the women’s 10K pursuit held earlier in the night, Emily Dreissigacker, of Morrisville, Vermont, the lone American entrant, finished with a career-best 47th place. Dreissigacker, a first-time Olympian, cleaned the first prone stage, and had only two penalties through the first 15 targets, but suffered two additional penalties in the final standing stage. Still, she was pleased to turn in a personal best placement on the Olympic stage.
“It’s a good feeling, but I’d like to do even better,” she said. “I was not super excited with my last standing shooting stage where I missed two, but up until that point it was all going really well. My skis were amazingly fast.”
Dreissigacker also acknowledged the wind playing a factor in the race.
“The wind can be a little tricky,” she added. “In my first standing stage, actually, I had to wait out a pretty big gust of wind. All the people around me were waiting too and we’re all just standing there waiting for it to die. That’s kind of just how it is. You have to be able to deal with that… be able to wait and not freak out.”
Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier doubled up on her sprint gold from Saturday, taking Monday’s women’s pursuit in a time of 30:35.3 with just one penalty. Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia outsprinted France’s Anais Bescond to claim the silver medal by 0.2 seconds.
After an off day on Tuesday, the biathlon competition at the Pyeongchang Winter Games continues on Wednesday with the women’s 15km individual race, starting at 8:05 p.m. local time.