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2023-24 World Cup Season Recap

by Joseph Bonacci

The 2023-24 BMW IBU World Cup season came to a close a few weeks ago in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, the perfect bookend to a season of success for the U.S. Biathlon Team. From two World Cup debuts, to personal best finishes, flower ceremonies, first World Cup points, historic relay performances and a home World Cup, the 2023-24 season was one to remember, generating exciting momentum going into the summer training season. 

The season began in Oestersund, Sweden, where Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, WA/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) skied to her first-ever World Cup points in just her second World Cup season, hitting a personal best 36th in the women’s individual, shooting 19 for 20. Oestersund also marked the World Cup debut of Margie Freed (Apple Valley, MN/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in the mixed relay, where the team raced to 14th. The following weekend in Hochfilzen, Austria also saw Grace Castonguay (Jackson, NH/Ethan Allen Biathlon Club) make her World Cup debut wearing bib 57 in the women’s 7.5km sprint.

World Cup 3 brought the U.S. Biathlon Team to Lenzerheide, Switzerland, venue for the 2025 World Championships. Here, Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, WI/Army World Class Athlete Program) brought her A game, shooting clean to finish eighth in the women’s 7.5km sprint, her first World Cup top-10 result. She continued her solid range performance, shooting 18 for 20 to finish 21st in the pursuit and 13th in the mass start, her first time cleaning a four-stage race on the World Cup. On the men’s side, Vincent Bonacci (Salt Lake City, UT/Team Crosscut) qualified for his first-ever pursuit, skiing to a 49th in the men’s 10km sprint in the Swiss Alps. 

Kicking off the New Year, the U.S Biathlon women’s relay team had their top result of the season, finishing 11th in Oberhof, Germany. The team of Irwin, Dickinson, Chloe Levins (Rutland, VT/Team Crosscut) and Jackie Garso (Lake Clear, NY/Craftsbury Green Racing Project), fell just seven seconds back from a top-10 relay finish, using just 11 spares rounds total, avoiding the penalty loop.

The second race weekend in Germany brought the team south to Ruhpolding, bordering the Austrian Alps. It was there that the men’s relay team of Campbell Wright (Wanaka, NZL/U.S. Biathlon), Sean Doherty (Center Conway, NH/National Guard Biathlon), Jake Brown (St. Paul, MN/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Bonacci hit their first top 10 result of the season, a sign of good things to come. Wright also began his streak of “new personal bests”, finishing 12th in the men’s 10km sprint, shooting 9 for 10.    

The final stop of trimester two and last races before the 2024 World Championships, Antholz, Italy saw World Cup personal bests from Garso and Bonacci in the short individual, with Garso skiing to 66th, shooting 19 for 20, and Bonacci finishing in 46th, shooting 18 for 20. The single mixed relay pair of Irwin and Wright emerged in Antholz, racing to ninth despite two added laps around the penalty loop. 

The highly anticipated World Championships in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, were a success for the American team. Week one highlights included Tara Geraghty-Moats (West Fairlee, VT/National Guard Biathlon) qualifying for her first World Championships pursuit with a personal best 58th in the women’s 7.5km sprint. Wright followed her lead with an outstanding 11th place in the men’s 10km sprint, rewriting his personal best and starting his brilliant run of form. 

Week two of the World Championships commenced with the women’s 15km individual. Irwin led the women with a World Championships personal best 11th place finish, with Levins also hitting her own personal best result in the same competition, skiing to an impressive 42nd in her second World Cup season; both women hitting 19 for 20 targets. Doherty raced to his season-best result in the men’s 20km individual the following day, crossing the line in 23rd. Irwin and Wright bested their single mixed relay result in Antholz with an historic seventh place. The men’s relay team of Wright, Brown, Doherty, and Bonacci fed off the momentum and skied to yet another historic result: fifth place in the 4x7.5km relay. Wright wrapped up the 2024 World Championships with an 18th place finish in the men’s mass start, his first of the season.

The iconic Holmenkollen venue in Oslo, Norway saw Irwin have her 100th career World Cup start in the single mixed relay, where she and Wright matched their seventh place result at World Championships. Wright also rewrote his personal best yet again with his first top-10 World Cup finish, crossing the line in eighth with a stellar 19 for 20 on the range. 

The final two race weekends brought the World Cup circuit back to North American soil for the first time since 2019. The Soldier Hollow World Cup was the first opportunity for many of the U.S. athletes to race on home soil in front of family and friends. The weekend kicked off with the men’s 4x7.5km relay, where the same men’s relay team of Bonacci, Doherty, Wright and Brown skied to 4th place, the best-ever men’s relay result since 1988 and best-ever on home soil. Later in the day, Freed skied to her first-ever World Cup points with 32nd place, cleaning her prone and missing just two targets in standing. Wright continued his upward streak racing to his best World Cup result in the men’s 10km sprint and his first career World Cup flower ceremony with an incredible 6th place, shooting 9 for 10 to landing just +20.0 off the lead. 

Canmore, Alberta, Canada brought sunshine and warm temperatures for the final three races of the 2023-24 World Cup season. A repeat of her range performance in Lenzerheide, Irwin cleaned her sprint race to finish 26th and continued her perfect shooting in the pursuit to finish 12th, the fourth-best result of her career and top U.S. result of the weekend. 
After 21 competitions, Wright led the U.S. men in the World Cup overall standings in 31st with 216 points. Doherty followed in 72nd overall and Brown just behind in 78th. Irwin led the women in 38th, the top World Cup total score of her career by 20 spots with Freed and Dickinson both seeing their first World Cup points this season landing 83rd and 88th overall. Team USA placed 14th overall in Nations Cup points. To view the full World Cup overall standings, including Nations Cup and individual discipline points, click HERE.

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