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Magic on Home Soil at Soldier Hollow

by Joseph Bonacci

Back in the United States for the first time since 2019, the U.S. Biathlon Team had standout performances in front of a home crowd at the Soldier Hollow World Cup. Campbell Wright (Wanaka, NZL/U.S. Biathlon) skied to flowers in the men’s sprint, Margie Freed (Apple Valley, MN/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) hit a personal best result and range performance and the men’s relay team landed its best result since 1988. The team now flies up to Canmore, Alberta, Canada for the second race weekend in North America, and last stop of the 2023-24 BMW IBU World Cup circuit. 


The weekend kicked off on Friday with the men’s relay and women’s sprint. The team of Vincent Bonacci (Salt Lake City, UT/Team Crosscut), Sean Doherty (Center Conway, NH/National Guard Biathlon), Wright and Jake Brown (St. Paul, MN/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) raced to fourth place in the 4x7.5km relay, an historic finish on home soil in the discipline. That afternoon, the women took to the course in the 7.5km sprint. Freed hit a World Cup personal best, skiing to 32nd with just two misses in the range, her best shooting performance, to qualify for her first World Cup pursuit. Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, WI/Army World Class Athlete Program) joined Freed in the pursuit with a 58th place in the sprint after cleaning prone but missing four shots in standing. Chloe Levins (Rutland, VT/Team Crosscut) fell just out of pursuit contention, finishing in 61st, and Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, WA/Craftsbury Green Racing Project) rounded out the group in 78th.


In Saturday’s men’s 10km sprint, the team qualified all four men for Sunday’s pursuit. Wright led the U.S. men with yet another World Cup personal best in sixth place, earning himself his first-ever World Cup flowers. Brown shot eight for ten and crossed the line in 46th. Doherty finished in 50th after three trips around the penalty loop, with Maxime Germain (Chamonix-Mont Blanc, FRA/National Guard Biathlon) skiing to 57th place to qualify for a spot in the pursuit. 


Sunday’s pursuit races saw Irwin, starting in bib 58, jump 11 places to finish 47th on the day. Freed hit her personal best four-stage shooting performance and crossed the line in 53rd. Wright led the men, finishing in 14th place and extending his top-20 streak to 13 races, with his last result outside of the top-20 happening in Antholz, Italy back in January. Brown finished in 48th, with Doherty in 52nd and Germain in 54th. 


The Soldier Hollow Nordic Center was a unique experience for Team USA compared to racing in Europe as the fans cheered and chanted in red, white and blue, waving their American flags, many of them friends and family who made the trip to Utah for the weekend.  


“It was incredible to have my family here,” said Irwin after the women’s pursuit. “Hearing them out on the trail and being able to get so many hugs after the race is something I have never had on the World Cup. It was something I really missed at the Olympics, so I have been treating this like my own mini-Olympics. I have about forty of my family and friends here and you could hear them chanting my name out on the course and that is something I will cherish forever.”


Carrying the momentum from Soldier Hollow, the team of Doherty, Wright, Brown, Bonacci, Irwin, Levins, Freed and Dickinson now heads to Canmore for the final BMW IBU World Cup of the 2023-24 season. The schedule includes the last sprint, pursuit and mass start races of the season, the final chance for World Cup points. Wright, who has moved up to 31st in the World Cup overall, will be looking to clinch the top-30, a feat last accomplished by U.S. athletes Doherty and Clare Egan in the 2018-19 season. For information on how to watch, visit usbiathlon.org/how-to-watch. Spectator resources can be found at usbiathlon.org/spectator-resources



World Cup 9 - Canmore, Alberta, Canada

March 14th

Women’s 7.5km Sprint 12:40 EST / 10:40 MST

March 15th

Men’s 10km Sprint 12:40 EST / 10:40 MST

March 16th

Women’s 10km Pursuit 1:10 EST / 11:10 MST

Men’s 12.5km Pursuit 5:10 EST / 3:10 MST

March 17th

Women’s 12.5km Mass Start 1:10 EST / 11:10 MST

Men’s 15km Mass Start 5:20 EST / 3:20 MST

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