Clean Shooting Propels Irwin to Eighth in Lenzerheide
by Sara Donatello
Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, WI/Army World Class Athlete Program) raced to a World Cup-best eighth place in the women’s 7.5km sprint, kicking off the first-ever World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. She landed just one spot off her career-best seventh place from the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, an historic finish for U.S. Biathlon.
“Emil and Armin really helped me put together a good ski plan for the race the past couple of days, and I really felt confident on the range all week,” said Irwin. “Fede, Gio and the wax team gave me amazing skis today. Honestly, we’ve all been saying it since Östersund that I have all the puzzle pieces and just had to fit them all together on the same day. Today was that day. It was a perfect team effort from everyone to keep me motivated and working the course from start to finish!”
Shooting a perfect 10/10, Irwin crossed the line only 13 seconds behind Germany’s Franziska Preuss and +1.12.6 off the leader, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet of France, who also shot clean. Braisaz-Bouchet was joined on the podium by Norway’s Ingrid Tandrevold and Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi.
Coming into the sprint race in Lenzerheide, Irwin’s World Cup personal best was a 14th in the sprint in Otepää, Estonia during the 2021/22 season. Jumping six spots to rewrite her personal best as eighth, reiterated Irwin’s place as a top contender amongst the women as they head into the pursuit on Saturday.
“I am really looking forward to the pursuit,” added Irwin. “I’ve never started this far up before and I’m ready to keep the momentum going.”
"I am very, very proud of her," said U.S. Biathlon National Team Head Coach Armin Auchentaller. "It was a very tough race and the conditions were tricky. The ski techs have done a really good job and all the pieces came together. Deedra showed her ability to race at the level of best in the world on a very tough track, which will give her more confidence in the future."
Team USA also had a World Cup personal best from Grace Castonguay (Jackson, NH/Ethan Allen Biathlon Club) with a 74th place finish in her second-ever World Cup start. Jackie Garso (Lake Clear, NY/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) finished in 80th. Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, WA/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) did not race in the sprint.
Looking to feed off the energy of Irwin’s result, the U.S. Biathlon men’s team will race in the 10km sprint tomorrow at 8:15 EST/02:15 CET. Live stream is available at eurovisionsports.tv/ibu/.