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 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!
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.