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U.S. biathlon relay team records historic finish

March 12, 2011
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

KHANTY-MANSIYSK, Russia - Lowell Bailey, Jay Hakkinen, Tim Burke and Leif Nordgren teamed up to post a sixth-place finish in the IBU World Championships on Friday.

Nordgren got the nod in a photo finish with Italy's Markus Windisch to secure the best-ever team relay result for a U.S. team. Their combined time of 1:16:52.0 was just 10 seconds off the bronze medal team from Ukraine. Norway took gold with a 1:16:13.9 and Russia was second in 1:16:27.3

Bailey, a Lake Placid native, skied the first leg of the U.S. relay team, turning in the third-best skiing time with just three extra shots. Bailey handed off to Hakkinen with the team sitting in fifth place, just 23.5 seconds behind the leader.

Hakkinen had to use five splits, but managed to stay out of the penalty loop, allowing the U.S. relay team to stay close to the leading teams. At the second exchange the U.S. team ranked seventh, 39 seconds back.

Paul Smiths native Tim Burke was the third U.S. racer, recording the fifth-best time with just two extra shots at the standing range. He handed off to Nordgren with the team in eighth place.

"I think that was our best relay ever and a strong team effort," Burke said. "I felt pretty good on the track and am happy about my shooting. We did work on that a bit over the last days, so I feel quite confident right now."

Despite two extras at each shooting stage, Nordgren had an impressive race, ranking eighth after the final shooting. With two of the best biathletes in front of him - Austrian Dominik Landertinger and Germany's Michael Greis - Nordgren seemed unfazed, working his way up step by step. At the last intermediate time, he was 57.1 seconds behind Tarjei Boe of Norway. The gap had decreased to just 38.1 seconds by his finish.

"We told him at the team meeting that he should just hold back till the last uphill and attack there," said U.S. Biathlon coach Per Nilsson. "We knew it was a good idea to put Leif in the last spot. He's good at shooting under pressure, but today it was even more exciting to see his final loop. He did exactly as we said and it worked out great."

Burke was still getting dressed in the stadium area as he watched the final leg.

"That was amazing," Burke said. "I saw him coming out of the range behind Austria and Germany and the next time I looked he came into the finish attacking Italy. That was incredible."

"I guess I worked not that hard the first two loops because I always was able to follow someone," Nordgren said. "So I still had some energy left at the last loop."

The IBU World Championships continue Saturday with the men's and women's mass start races.



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