Egan has career-best 10th-place finish in Austria
HOCHFILZEN, Austria — Hochfilzen continues to be kind to United States biathletes. The site of historic American performances at past world championships, the tracks at Hochfilzen delivered more memorable performances on Friday as the third BMW IBU World Cup got underway with the men’s and women’s sprint races.
Clare Egan of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, turned in a career-best sprint finish in 10th place with just one miss from prone to finish 35.7 seconds back of winner Dzinara Alimbekava of Belarus, who shot clean to top the field of 109 with a time of 20 minutes, 12.3 seconds.
The top-10 finish by Egan led all four U.S. women to place in the top 60 and qualify for Sunday’s 10-kilometer pursuit, the first time that has happened in 15 years. Joining Egan in Sunday’s pursuit will be Joanne Reid (Grand Junction, Colorado.) who placed 27th (+35.7/+1), Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vermont) who was 53rd (+1:56.2/+3), and Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, Wisconsinb) who finished a career-best 54th (+1:56.6/+2) to qualify for her first career pursuit race.
“I’m very excited for the results today,” said Women’s National Team Coach Armin Auchentaller. “Everyone took a step up in course time, so hopefully that trend continues.”
The men’s 10km sprint also produced a career best for Team USA as Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wisconsin) placed 42nd (+2:01.9/+1) to qualify for his first pursuit race on Saturday. He will join teammate Sean Doherty (Center Conway, New Hampshire) in the men’s pursuit. Doherty finished 40th, 1:59.4 back of winner Johannes Dale of Norway. Doherty had one penalty on the range.
Egan, whose top finish at the first two World Cups of the season was 27th in the sprint in Kontiolahti, Finland, felt her off-season training was validated with today’s result.
“Coming into the season I believed I was capable of top-10s based on my training in summer and fall,” Egan said. “So last week was kind of harsh to be much lower down on the results sheet. But, of course, biathlon has shown once again that anything can and will happen from week to week, day to day.”
Even though she was feeling good on her skis today, Egan did not let her mind wander during the race. Years of experience kept her focused on the task at hand.
“I knew I was fighting for sixth place on my last loop, but I was only bib 36 out of over 100 starters, so that doesn’t tell you much. I’ve had experiences here in Hochfilzen where I thought I did great and then my result did not reflect my performance, so I didn’t get ahead of myself. That said, I had excellent skis today, which really helped because this is a ‘working course’ where efficiency is key. Knowing that my skis were working so well for me gave me confidence in my race plan.”
Asked whether the Hochfilzen tracks suited her racing style better than the ones she left last week in Kontiiolahti, Egan responded, “Historically, Hochfilzen has consistently been my worst course, and Kontiolahti one of my best. So I really don’t know what to say, except… biathlon.”
Egan was just as happy for her teammates’ performances as she was for her own.
“I’m thrilled for Deedra and Paul who both qualified for their first pursuits,” she said. “We will have four women in the pursuit on Sunday. It’s very exciting. The four of us are looking forward to the relay tomorrow as well. This is the best team I have been a part of.”
Dunklee echoed Egan’s feelings.“In my career I have never seen four U.S. women qualify for a pursuit. We have a new level of depth and I’m especially proud of Deedra who will race her first pursuit this weekend. Clare’s ski speed today is inspiring and indicates more good things to come for us.”
The women’s sprint saw Alimbekava finish 8.5 seconds ahead of Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff and 9.9 in front of Germany’s Franziska Preuss. Dale won the men’s race with clean shooting to cross the line 17.1 seconds clear of France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet and 29 seconds ahead of France’s Fabien Claude.
The BMW IBU World Cup continues from Hochfilzen on Saturday with the women’s 4x6km relay and the men’s 12.5km pursuit. Events can be streamed live on Peacocktv.com or the NBC Olympic Channel. Replays are available after each event on https://www.eurovisionsports.tv/ibu/.