16.12.2023, Lenzerheide, Switzerland (SUI): Sean Doherty (USA), Vladimir Iliev (BUL), (l-r) - IBU World Cup Biathlon, pursuit men, Lenzerheide (SUI). www.nordicfocus.com. © Manzoni/NordicFocus.
Standout Weekend In Lenzerheide to Wrap Up First Trimester
by Joseph Bonacci
The first trimester of the IBU World Cup concluded this past weekend in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Team USA’s Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, WI/Army World Class Athlete Program) stepped up and had the best weekend of her career, landing eighth in the sprint on Thursday. The last time U.S. Biathlon had an athlete in the top ten was in 2022 when Irwin skied to seventh place in the individual event at the Olympics in Beijing.
Irwin, who shot clean in the sprint, was followed by teammate Grace Castonguay (Jackson, NH/Ethan Allen Biathlon Club) in 74th with one miss, skiing to a World Cup personal best after making her debut in Hochfilzen. Jackie Garso (Lake Clear, NY/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) finished in 80th with three misses in standing. Irwin continued to have a strong weekend, finishing 21st in Saturday’s pursuit after only two missed shots in her first stop in prone. In Sunday’s mass start, Irwin shot 20 for 20, the first of her World Cup career, landing her in 13th to round out the weekend.
“Just incredible to have two of my races go clean. It’s just unreal. It’s really just a dream come true to have all of this come together,” said Irwin. “The wax team did such an amazing job and my coaches did an amazing job preparing me, so to be able to share this weekend with so many amazing people who have helped me get to this point is just so cool. I can’t wait to come back to Lenzerheide next year for World Championships!”
Friday’s men’s 10km sprint brought a strong showing by the U.S. men’s team. Sean Doherty (Center Conway, NH/National Guard Biathlon) led the group in 27th with one missed shot. Jake Brown (Saint Paul, MN/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Vincent Bonacci (Salt Lake City, UT/Team Crosscut) finished neck and neck in 48th and 49th to both qualify for Saturday’s pursuit, Bonacci’s first World Cup pursuit qualification. Campbell Wright (Wanaka, NZL/U.S. Biathlon) finishing just out of pursuit contention in 72nd with two misses on the day.
In Saturday’s pursuit, Doherty skied to 37th place after one miss in each of his four shooting bouts. Bonacci followed suit, also missing four, finishing 48th. Brown did not start the pursuit.
The first trimester has brought World Cup debuts, personal bests, clean shooting and stellar performances. During the World Cup premier in Östersund, Sweden, Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, WA/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) raced to a personal best 36th in the women’s individual, where Margie Freed made her World Cup debut. Irwin’s 8th place, clean shooting and feature in the mass start, and Bonacci’s 48th place and pursuit qualification in Lenzerheide highlighted the weekend’s results.
The U.S. Biathlon Team will now head into a well-deserved holiday break before the second trimester of World Cup racing begins in Oberhof, Germany on January 4. Highlighting the new year will be World Championships taking place February 7-18 in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, and March 8-10 will bring the IBU World Cup back to home soil for the first time since 2019. The top biathletes will be racing at Soldier Hollow in the second-to-last race weekend of the season, which is sure to be a spectacle. For information on the Soldier Hollow World Cup, check out https://ibuworldcuputah.com/.