U.S. Team Gears up for Hochfilzen World Cup
by Bill Kellick
Buoyed by a strong start to the season last week in Kontiolahti, Finland, the U.S. Biathlon Team will look to build upon those performances as the BMW IBU World Cup heads to Hochfilzen, Austria, this week. The four-day event (Dec. 8-11) will feature sprints, pursuits and relays.
The U.S. team has three athletes in the top 40 of the IBU World Cup rankings following the season-opening event. On the men’s side, Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H./National Guard Biathlon) is ranked 25th, followed by Jake Brown (St. Paul, Minn./Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 36th. Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, Wis./National Guard Biathlon Team) is currently 38th in the women’s rankings.
“I would say that I am very happy to be off to a better start this season,” said Doherty, who placed 20th in the sprint and 24th in the pursuit in Kontiolahti. “It is always fun to be in the thick of the action. Overall, I think the whole team had a solid opener and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do this week in Hochfilzen.”
Brown is coming off a career-best 20th in the pursuit event in Kontiolahti, moving up 21 places from his 41st starting position.
“Each year, assuming you've put in the work as a team and individually, you think you're better, but you really never know until you put it to the test at the first World Cups,” Brown stated. “I always dream of having our team just absolutely crush the first World Cups, but then you get back to racing and realize why it's so hard to do. It can kind of temper your expectations. We'll keep on grinding steadily and, since it's biathlon, be ready to accept the reality that something special could happen at any time.”
Irwin is part of a U.S. women’s team that is holding on to 10th place in the Nations Cup standings. She also holds a special place in her heart for Hochfilzen as it was the site of her first World Cup in 2018 and her first World Cup pursuit race in 2020.
“I like Hochfilzen and I'm excited about this World Cup,” said Irwin. “It's a World Cup venue full of memorable firsts for me. I think the team is excited and ready to get back at it after Kontiolahti. Our World Cup rookies really did amazing in the first week of racing and I'm excited to see how everyone does this week. I hope we can hold the momentum from Finland and continue to see great results from everyone.”
Racing in her first World Cup pursuit event last weekend was Chloe Levins (Rutland, Vt.). Levins earned her pursuit entry with a 46th-place finish in the sprint and then moved up three places in the pursuit to place 43rd.
“I’d never raced in Kontiolahti before this week, so the learning began as soon as we hit the ground,” Levins said. “It was really important for me to have a clear plan around the shooting and skiing in order to feel calm and confident. Getting to contribute to our team’s excellent shooting record on the sprint day was really special.”
Levins also strung together three personal-best results during her week in Kontiolahti.
“Although I felt a bit low on energy for the pursuit, I controlled the variables put in front of me,” she added. “It was really exciting to race head-to-head against the best. I thrive off the high-performance environment and am embracing every moment. After racing a total of three times all year last year, I’m happy to have gotten to start off this season on a much happier and healthier path, and I can’t wait to keep learning.”
There are five Team USA men on the ground in Hochfilzen, with the return of 2022 Olympian Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wis./Crosscut Elite Team) who sat out the Kontiolahti World Cup with a knee injury. He, along with Doherty, Brown, Vaclav Cervenka (Grand Rapids, Minn./National Guard Biathlon) and Maxime Germain (Chamonix-Mont Blanc, FRA/National Guard Biathlon) round out the men’s squad. The coaches will determine who will start each competition based on fitness and health as the men only have four start positions.
The U.S. women’s team, which has earned five start positions for the 2022-23 season, will consist of Irwin, Levins, Joanne Reid (Grand Junction, Colo.), Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, Wash./Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Tara Geraghty-Moats (West Fairlee, Vt./Craftsbury Green Racing Project).
"Kontiolahti was a great start to the season with personal bests from Vasek Cervenka, Jake Brown, Maxime Germain, and Chloe Levins,” said U.S. Biathlon Director of High Performance Lowell Bailey. With four top-25s and two solid relay performances, we are excited to see how the season goes from here."
Competition at the Hochfilzen World Cup begins Wednesday, Dec. 8, and will be live-streamed via Eurovision.
BMW IBU World Cup #2 – Hochfilzen, Austria (all times EST)
Thursday, Dec. 8
8:10 am – Women’s 7.5km sprint
Friday, Dec. 9
7:45 am – Men’s 10km sprint
Saturday, Dec. 10
5:30 am – Women’s 10km pursuit
7:40 am – Men’s 4x7.5km relay
Sunday, Dec. 11
5:30 am – Women’s 4x6km relay
8:15 am – Men’s 12.5km pursuit