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A World Championships to Remember

by Joseph Bonacci

The 2024 IBU World Championships wrapped up on Sunday at the Vysocina Arena in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, which saw 210,000 fans over the course of two weeks. Team USA had its best World Championships showing in years with career-best best results, historic finishes and multiple mass start qualifications. After nearly two weeks of racing, the team heads into a period of rest and training before trimester three commences on February 29 at the infamous Holmenkollen venue in Oslo, Norway. 

The women’s 15km individual kicked off week two of racing with Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, WI / Army World Class Athlete Program) hitting a career-best World Championships result and Chloe Levins (Rutland, VT/ Team Crosscut) skiing to a career-best World Championship and World Cup result. Irwin, landing in 11th, missed just one shot in her first round, lightening the pressure, and shot clean the rest of the way. Levins followed in 42nd, missing just one target in her last round of shooting. Jackie Garso (Lake Clear, NY / Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Tara Geraghty-Moats (West Fairlee, VT/National Guard Biathlon) finished in 84th and 91st. 

The following day saw the men’s 20km individual, where Campbell Wright (Wanaka, NZL / U.S. Biathlon) continued his streak of top-20 performances to finish in 20th, matching his individual result from the 2023 World Championships in Oberhof, Germany. Teammate Sean Doherty (Center Conway, NH / National Guard Biathlon) landed just three spots behind Wright in 23rd, a season-best result for the veteran athlete. Jake Brown (Saint Paul, MN / Craftsbury Green Racing Project) raced to 50th, placing three U.S. men in the top 50. Vincent Bonacci (Salt Lake City, UT / Team Crosscut) rounded out the group in 74th. 

The single mixed relay duo of Irwin and Wright skied to an historic seventh place finish. In a three-way tie for the second best range performance, Wright cleaned his first leg and used just one spare round in standing on his second leg. Irwin, using one spare in both prone and standing on her first leg, kept her cool on the final leg, using one spare in prone and cleaning her standing to solidify the result. 

“We both had really great shooting and were able to keep great focus in the range,” Irwin said, “Campbell’s three-time clean was world class, and it was really cool to be in the mix throughout the race. We are looking forward to the Oslo single-mixed relay. We’re knocking on the door for a podium!” 

Just two days later, in the men’s 4x7.5km relay, the U.S. skied to yet another historic finish, this time in fifth place. Bonacci, starting in bib 14, was able to bring the team to 11th at the first exchange, using just two spare rounds in prone. Doherty, holding a top-10 ski time, used three spares in prone and tagged off Wright in 10th, who held a fourth-best course time to put the team in sixth heading into the final leg. Brown rounded out the incredible team effort using just two spares in standing to cross the line in fifth, just +0.31 behind the fourth-place Germany and +1.10 off a bronze medal.

“I was really happy with the team’s performance, especially Campbell’s leg,” said Bonacci. “If we each have a leg like that at Soldier Hollow in a couple of weeks we could be on that podium.”

The week wrapped up with the men’s 15km mass start. Having stellar performances at World Championships, Doherty and Wright both qualified to race against the world’s top athletes. Wright crossed the line in 18th, ending his World Championships with top-20 performances in every race. Doherty, finishing in 28th, left Nove Mesto with three individual top-30 performances, his best showing since the 2019 World Championships in Oestersund, Sweden. 
With trimester three on the horizon, the U.S. Biathlon Team has a much-deserved rest period before racing resumes in Oslo, Norway on February 29th. The following weekend, for the first time since 2019, World Cup racing will head to home soil for the Soldier Hollow World Cup, slated for March 8-10. The final races of the 2023/24 season will take place in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, March 14-17. Brown, Doherty, Wright and Salt Lake City, UT native, Bonacci make up the U.S. men’s team. On the women’s side, we will see the familiar faces of Irwin and Levins, as well as the return of Margie Freed (Apple Valley, MN / Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, WA / Craftsbury Green Racing Project). For information on the Soldier Hollow World Cup, visit ibuworldcuputah.com. For spectator resources, visit usbiathlon.org/spectator-resources.

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