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Author Archive

Putting Oslo Behind, Moving On to World Championships

17.Feb.2015 by Clare Egan

I just wrapped up a week in Oslo, Norway, competing at Biathlon World Cup 8. I am working my way up from the very bottom, which gives me an exceptional opportunity to improve. I did a 15k individual format race with 4 shooting stages, a 7.5k sprint format race with two shooting stages, and a 4x6k women’s relay, with Annelies Cook and the GRP’s Susan Dunklee and Hannah Dreissigacker.

In the individual, I was 82nd with six misses [1p, 1s, 1p, 3s]. I was disappointed with the last stage but otherwise content. Then in the sprint, I narrowly avoided getting last place, finishing 91st with six misses! Six misses out of ten targets is not good. I am trying to focus on what was good, which was the work I did on the course and on the range; I did everything on my checklist as far as skiing technique and shooting process, and stayed in control the whole time. My misses were really close so I just have to be a tiny bit more precise. Then I had one more opportunity to race today in the women’s relay.

But Sunday proved to be another rough day for me in Oslo. Our team started off well, with Susan using only two spare rounds and skiing the fastest course time for the first leg to tag off in 6th place. But that was the closest we ever made it to the front of the race. Hannah, Annelies and I each had two penalty laps. As I skied my second penalty lap, the winning team from the Czech Republic lapped us and crossed the finish line, so I was pulled from the course and was not allowed to finish. With the exception of Susan’s race, this was not the kind of performance that any of us aspired to as we prepare for World Championships. (See US Biathlon’s race recap of the relay, here, and World Championships roster announcement, here.)

I am trying to focus on the few good things that I did this weekend, even if they were very few. My prone shooting is consistently solid and my ski times are getting faster as I race more. The third component of biathlon, my standing shooting, needs major improvement, but I did hit four out of five targets in one stage of the individual race, so I know the skills are there. We have a few weeks now to practice before World Championships begin in Kantiolahti, Finland on March 4th. I am grateful for the example of my more-experienced teammates and the guidance of US Biathlon’s world-class staff, for helping me keep my head above water. Onto World Championships!

 

Training in Inzell, Germany

2.Feb.2015 by Clare Egan

While most of the European World Cup racers returned to their home countries, we staked out our own home-away-from-home in Inzell, Germany for the week. One of our wax techs has a family connection to the Rauschbergblick Gasthof so the team often comes and stays here when there are breaks in the competition schedule. There is over half a meter of snow and the skiing is amazing! We have been shooting at the World Cup venue in Ruhpolding, which is the next town over. Tomorrow we’ll depart for Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for our next weekend of races. Here are a few pictures from Inzell.

Freddie the Pferd

Tons of snow and beautiful trails in the valley 

Me skiing in the sun! 

The view from our cabin

Hannah, Sean and Lowell soaking up the sun

My first World Cup!

27.Jan.2015 by Clare Egan

I finished my first World Cup biathlon race! I was the 4th leg of our relay team at World Cup 6 in Antholz, Italy.

In the women’s relay event, each person skis a 2k loop, shoots prone, skis another 2k loop, shoots standing, and then skis a third 2k loop and tags off. For each shooting stage, in addition to the five bullets (“rounds”) in the magazine, you have three spare rounds you can load by hand if you need to. If you still have un-hit targets after using eight bullets, you have to ski the corresponding number of penalty laps. Spare rounds and penalty laps take a lot of time so it is best to try to hit all five targets on the first pass! In a typical biathlon race, the top teams have no penalty laps and few spares. On Sunday, however, there was strong gusting wind, and only one team out of 20 finished the race with no penalties. For anyone who is trying to decode the results: Clare Egan 0+3, 2+3 means I used all three spares in prone but did not have any penalty laps, and then used all three spares in standing and still had two penalty laps.

Susan Dunklee on course with a Bularussian

Susan Dunklee went first for our team. She shot 0+0, 0+3 (get it??) and skied the fastest ski time for the first leg, tagging off to Hannah Dreissigacker in 2nd place! Hannah shot 0+2 in prone but then got stuck on the range during a gale-force gust in standing and shot 3+3! She was on the range for almost two minutes, along with about ten other women, just waiting for the wind to die. A normal range time is more like 30 seconds. Hannah tagged off to our third skier, Annelies Cook, in 12th. Annelies shot 0+3, 0+1 and skied us up into 10th place, when she tagged me!

Hannah Dreissigacker with fans cheering on the hill

Annelies Cook tagging me in the exchange zone

I was psyched that I was keeping up with other skiers around me on my first loop. In prone I missed my first three shots! But then I hit my last two, as well as all three spares so I avoided going into the penalty loop. In standing, the opposite thing happened. I hit my first three shots, but then missed the next five, and had to go twice around the penalty loop. I was lucky when I first arrived on the range it was calm enough for me to get those three shots off and have hits. Then after that the wind picked up again and I couldn’t control the rifle. My last lap was hard, because I was alone on course. All the teams behind us had been lapped by the leaders so they were pulled out of the race and not allowed to finish, and all the spectators were already leaving. When I finished, my teammate Susan was waiting for me at the finish line and showed me where my warm clothes were and carried my stuff for me. Thank goodness for good teammates!

The whole World Cup experience was very positive and I am looking forward to racing at World Cups 7 & 8 in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic and Oslo, Norway. I think that I will fit right in.

Me in the finish area, as seen on Eurovision live feed, by my dad in Florida!

“Biathlon Fans Hungary” are also fans of USA!

Stadium at dusk after Saturday’s pursuit

Jumbo screen as seen from the stadium. Susan Dunklee (USA), far right, raises her skis to celebrate her 6th place finish in the pursuit

Spectator tent, post race

Biathlon Firsts!!

21.Jan.2015 by Clare Egan

If you read my most recent blog post “My First IBU Cup Race” you know that I was sick and did terribly. But biathlon is all about resilience, and in my second IBU Cup race, in Ridnaun, Italy, I hit every single one of my targets! That was an awesome first!

I had never hit all my standing targets in a race before, so to do that on a day when I also hit all my prone targets was pretty special. And do to it on a day when I really needed to– for my own sanity as well as my goal to qualify for the World Cup– meant even more. I came in 32nd, struggling to ski fast after being sick last week. But the ski speed will come back sooner or later, and in the meantime I qualified for the pursuit, which was my result goal for the day. I also finished within 15% time back from the leaders, which means I met the IBU’s qualification standard for the World Cup.

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L-R Maddie Phaneuf, Me, and Kelsey Dickinson on the way to our race

After Friday’s clean sprint, Italy, I raced in a pursuit on Saturday, and a relay on Sunday. Unfortunately I did not have the same precision on the range, but I felt way better and faster skiing! Looking back on my first IBU Cup experience, there are a ton of things that could have gone better, but I am focussing on the clean shooting biathlon miracle. Here are a couple of pictures from Ridnaun:

A trail of artificial snow in the Val di Ridanna (Ridnaun), Italy
View from the valley

So what now? Based on the results from two weekends of IBU Cup racing, the national team coaches decided to bring both Maddie Phaneuf and me to World Cup 6 in Antholz, Italy. That will be another awesome first for me! We will join US Biathlon Team veterans Susan Dunklee, Hannah Dreissigacker, and Annelies Cook. The US is allowed to start four women in any given race, so Maddie and I will each get one chance to compete. Maddie will race the sprint on Friday, from which the top 60 finishers qualify for the pursuit on Saturday, and then I will race in the relay on Sunday.

R-L: Maddie Phaneuf, Casey Smith and I at Lago Dobbiacco

Maddie and I are the only two female members of the US Biathlon “X Team.” She is one of the top shooters in the US of any age, and one of the best biathletes in the world for her age: last year she placed 4th at World Junior Biathlon Championships. She is only 19 so she is focussing on preparing for another World Junior Championships this year, but she is also getting a taste for the World Cup. After racing well at IBU Cup 4 in Poland, she made her World Cup debut last week at World Cup 5 in Rupholding as a part of the women’s 4x6k relay.

I am keeping super high goals and super low expectations. My outlook for this sport goes beyond this weekend or this season, so every race is good practice for next time. My coaches are putting me on the “fast track”, giving me as much experience as possible at the highest level, and I am just trying to keep up. Of course I am trying to get better as fast as I can, but it just takes time. My first biathlon coach, Algis, said, “How to do you think you get better at standing with a rifle? Standing with a rifle!” People like me, whose lives revolve around trying to do something as fast as possible, are not often patient. Those who are make great biathletes!

My coach, Jean Paquet, and I at Lago Dobbiacco.
Snow and sun in Ridnaun, Italy!