Lowell Bailey took 16th place and Susan Dunklee finished fifth Friday as the World Cup biathlon tour event in Kontiolahti, Finland got underway.
Bailey, of Lake Placid, shot cleanly, but was unable to get in a groove on the skis in the men's 10-kilometer sprint. He finished 1 minute, 1.1 seconds behind race-winner Martin Fourcade, of France, who finished in 22:17 with a single penalty. It was the 13th victory of the season for Fourcade surpassing Ole Einar Bjoerndalen for most wins in a season.
Clean-shooting Ondrej Moravec, of Czech Republic, almost had his second career victory, but finished just 0.6 seconds back. Third place went to Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen, who also shot clean, 9.4 seconds behind Fourcade.
"It was a little bit tricky on the tracks for me today," Bailey said. "I didn't feel completely comfortable on the glazed snow and I don't think I was able to relax and glide on the skis like normal. I like the Kontiolahti courses, but today I just didn't feel 100 percent. Luckily, I was able to hit all my targets which helped my final result. Hopefully, tomorrow I can find a bit more reserves in the legs and a little more speed on the tracks."
The IBU World Cup in Finland continues today with the men's and women's pursuit races. The men's 12.5K starts at 6 a.m. ET, followed by the women's 10K at 9:15 a.m. ET. Both races will be streamed live on Eurovision.
Joining Bailey in the pursuit will be Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minnesota) and Sean Doherty (Center Conway, New Hampshire) who placed 43rd and 44th, respectively. Nordgren had two penalties and was 1:36.8 back, while Doherty had one penalty, 1:38.5 behind Fourcade. The fourth member of the U.S. men's team, Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wisconsin), finished 84th.
Dunklee's fifth-place finish in the Friday's 7.5K sprint was her fourth top-five finish in her last five races, including a historic silver-medal performance at the world championships.
"It's been an incredible run these past few weeks," Dunklee said. "I'm riding on momentum. Sometimes you fall into biathlon funks when you don't succeed no matter how hard you try, and other times you find a groove where it feels easy. I don't really understand it but I do know that resilience and patience are essential in biathlon."
Dunklee's day started with a missed target in prone, making for an uphill battle to the podium, but she was up to the challenge. She turned in the second-fastest shooting time, second-fastest range time and went clean from the standing position to help her cross the line in fourth place. Dunklee was later bumped down to the fifth position by 0.1 seconds by Russia's Daria Virolaynen.
"I kept my focus on the task at hand," Dunklee said about missing the target in prone. "I saved a little energy so I could attack hard on the big wall (on the last loop) and I made up a lot of time there. Tomorrow is another great opportunity. I have several fast people close around me to ski with."
Dunklee's total time was 34.9 seconds back of gold medalist Tiril Eckhoff of Norway who shot clean for her first win of the season, finishing in 19:18.5. Germany's Laura Dahlmeier, with one penalty, was second, 18.3 seconds back. Darya Domracheva of Belarus matched Eckhoff on the shooting range to finish third, 20.4 seconds behind Eckhoff.
Dunklee will be joined in the women's pursuit by teammates Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colorado) and Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) who finished 55th and 59th, respectively. Reid shot clean on the range, while Egan went clean from prone but suffered three penalties in standing.