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American gets strong start at biathlon World Championships

Jake Brown races in the men’s sprint at the IBU Biathlon World Championships in Pokljuka, Slovenia, on Friday. (Provided photo — Nordic Focus)

POKLJUKA, Slovenia — Jake Brown of St. Paul, Minnesota, shot clean and took 12th place at the IBU Biathlon World Championships in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint Friday — smashing his personal best and achieving a high mark for an American.

The 28-year-old’s prior high mark came earlier this season when he raced to 30th place in the World Cup 10k sprint in Kontiolahti, Finland.

On Friday he upped his game, finishing just 44.8 seconds back of winner Martin Ponsiluoma of Sweden.

“I’m very thankful to have my best race of the season so far come at world champs,” said Brown. “Biathlon is such a tough sport for everything to go right. Sometimes the shooting is there and the skiing isn’t, and usually, for me, it’s the case that the skiing is there but the shooting is elusive. Today I was able to find enough excellence in both to have the best race of my career to date.”

Although a few Americans have won medals in biathlon World Championships — notably Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke of Lake Placid — in general it is rare for an American to place as high as 12th in a top-level biathlon event.

Behind every successful performance is a team of coaches and support staff that largely go unnoticed, but Brown was quick to praise those who helped him to the best day of his biathlon career.

“God gave me peace on the range today, and I was able to follow the words of my shooting coach Matt Emmons and simply ‘attack,'” he said. “My work with coach Vegard Bitnes has been helping me improve my skiing technique and therefore my skiing times. My ski techs Gio, Fede and the whole crew selected a great pair of Salomon skis for me today that were flying out there. On the last lap, I thought of everyone who has supported me and all the people rooting for me, and I knew I had to give everything I had to make my clean shooting count. I don’t expect my future races to always go this way, but I’m happy to see progress and hope I can build on this performance going forward.”

Brown will look to build on Friday’s performance during Sunday’s men’s 12.5km pursuit as he starts within 45 seconds of Ponsiluoma. Joining Brown in the pursuit for the U.S. team will be Leif Nordgren (Hinesburg, Vermont) who finished 46th in Friday’s sprint with one penalty, 1:59.1 off the pace.

Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wisconsin) was 72nd in Friday’s sprint while Sean Doherty (Center Conway, New Hampshire) placed 79th. Neither qualified for the pursuit race.

Ponsiluoma was joined on the men’s sprint podium by French teammates Simon Desthieux (11.2 seconds back with no penalties) and Emilien Jacquelin ( 12.9/ 1).

Today, the women’s 7.5km sprint takes center stage at the world championships with Team USA represented by Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine), Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Joanne Reid (Grand Junction, Colo.) and Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, Wis.).

All events will air live on Peacock and the Olympic Channel with same-day or next-day coverage available on the NBC Sports Network.

Lake Placid is a key training center for the U.S. Biathlon team.

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