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For Americans, biathlon World Cup opener includes a career best, some strong shooting

Jake Brown of the United States races in the men’s sprint Sunday during the 2020 BMW IBU World Cup in Kontiolahti, Finland. (Provided photo — Nordic Focus Photo Agency)

KONTIOLAHTI, Finland — Following the longest and most trying off-season of their athletic careers, U.S. biathletes returned to the comforting confines of competition this weekend as the BMW IBU World Cup got underway for the 2020-21 season in Kontiolahti, Finland.

The performance of the U.S. team — which trains partly in Lake Placid — was highlighted by a career-best 30th by Jake Brown of St. Paul, Minnesota, in Sunday’s men’s sprint. Brown had just one missed target in prone, finishing 2:13 off the pace set by winner Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway.

“I was really pleased to have a good one today,” said Brown. “Our wax techs gave me great skis today, and I pushed hard on the course from start to finish. There’s room to improve yet, so I’ll keep working hard, but it’s satisfying to see progress on the results page.”

After missing his only target in prone, Brown had to summon the mental strength to execute a clean round in standing.

“In standing, I had three targets down when a flash of excitement came into my mind,” he said. “I thought back to past races when such a thought had led to a miss, and I was determined to not let that happen today. So I reset my focus and thankfully was able to knock down the final two targets. The clean stage really motivated me to push hard on the last lap.”

Other U.S. finishers in Sunday’s men’s sprint were Sean Doherty (Center Conway, New Hampshire) in 43rd, Leif Nordgren (Hinesburg, Vermont) in 48th, and Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wisconsin) in 75th.

A clean-shooting Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) led the women’s sprint efforts with a 27th-place finish on Sunday. Her time was 1:34.8 back of Sweden’s Hanna Oeberg.

“I’m really pleased with my shooting in these first two races,” Egan said. “It’s always a pleasure to skip the penalty loop entirely.”

Egan’s Sunday performance came on the heels of a 35th-place effort on Saturday in the women’s 15-kilometer individual, in which she hit 18 of 20 targets on the range. Joanne Reid (Grand Junction, Colorado) was the top American in the 15k with a 29th-place performance and just one miss in her final standing stage.

Nordgren led the U.S. men’s team in Saturday’s 20k individual, hitting 19 of 20 targets en route to a 25th-place finish. Doherty placed 39th, followed by Brown in 55th and Schommer in 57th.

The BMW IBU World Cup circuit will remain in Kontiolahti for another weekend with sprints today, pursuit races on Saturday and relays on Sunday.

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