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Nordgren records career day

ANTHOLZ-ANTERSELVA, Italy — Leif Nordgren shot his way to a career-best finish in the men’s 20-kilometer individual on Wednesday at the IBU World Championships in Antholz.

The two-time Olympian from Hinesburg, Vermont, was the only competitor in the 104-man field to shoot a perfect 20-for-20 on the range, propelling him to a career-best eighth place. Nordgren’s previous best was a 16th-place finish in the same event at last year’s world championships.

“As always, the individual is a shooting competition,” Nordgren said. “It was pretty apparent watching the women race yesterday how important it was to shoot well. There were quite a few women who just threw away their race with a few bad shots. My ski speed isn’t really the best right now, so I knew to have a top result I needed to really focus on the shooting and getting as many hits as possible.”

Nordgren, whose final time was 3 minutes, 4.3 seconds off the winning pace set by France’s Martin Fourcade, followed his pre-race strategy to a T en route to the best day of his career.

“I just tried to be very deliberate in each stage and for each shot,” he said. “I didn’t try to push the speed or do anything special. The last stage was a big fight mentally. I knew I just had to focus on the things I work on in training and take my time.”

However, by the time Nordgren got to the range for the final standing stage, he started to fully feel the pressure of the moment. He even executed a full squat in an attempt to gather himself before squeezing off his final shot.

 “I was shaking from head to toe for the last shot,” Nordgren said. “I had to resettle my position about three different times before I felt comfortable enough to go for it.”

After closing out the only perfect day of shooting in the field, Nordgren relied on a teammate to assist him down the homestretch.

“The last loop I was pretty lucky to have my teammate Paul Schommer to ski with,” Nordgren said. “He was on his second loop so he was pretty fresh still which was perfect for me. It was a fight to stay with him sometimes but I managed it and finished strong.”

In addition to Nordgren’s career day, the U.S. men’s team put all four of its entrants into the top-50. Sean Doherty (Center Conway, New Hampshire) finished 24th with three penalties, 4:37.3 back; Jake Brown (Saint Paul, Minnesota) was 46th, 6:37.1 back with four penalties; and Schommer (Appleton, Wisconsin) placed 48th with three penalties, 6:40.7 off the pace.

Fourcade took control of the men’s individual after the first standing stage and dominated the rest of the way to win his fourth career 20k title at the IBU World Championships. He finished in 49:43.1 with one penalty on his last shot of the day. Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe, with two penalties, won the silver medal, 57 seconds back. Dominik Landertinger of Austria took home the bronze medal, 1:22.1 behind Fourcade with one penalty.

The IBU World Championships continue on Thursday with the single mixed relay. Doherty will team up with Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vermont) for Team USA in the 30-team field. The race will be shown live on the Olympic Channel beginning at 9:00 a.m. EST.

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