U.S. biathlete captures U-19 Junior world championship

Sean Doherty of Center Conway, N.H. captured the under-19 Youth Pursuit World Championship Sunday in Obertilliach, Austria.

The 17-year-old Doherty won the 10-kilometer pursuit by 28.2 seconds after posting a time of 29 minutes 31 seconds with three shooting penalties. Rene Zahkna of Estonia was second in 29:59.2 (0+1+2+0) and Fredrick Roervik of Norway was third with a time of 30:03.5 (0+0+1+2).

“It feels great to be World Champion. It’s amazing and has been a goal of mine,” Doherty said. “During the race I felt really good and very in control. I recognized I had a good lead going, which was good since I wasn’t feeling superb skiing. I was glad to be in charge of the race from there. I made sure I didn’t get ahead of myself and stayed focused on one thing at a time.

“I was a little bit nervous to start second today, but I had a really good plan and stuck with that and it worked out great. I was glad that I was able to keep a calm head throughout all the shooting.”

Doherty had two penalties at the first range and was perfect at the second and third before missing once in the final stage.

“My only struggle was that my first prone wasn’t exactly as I planned it, but if there is one stage that you have a struggle, that’s the one that I could make up for early on in the race,” Doherty said. “Going forward this week I feel good about the individual, which is a shooting race, and I’m really looking forward to the relay.”

It was the second podium of the weekend for Doherty, who won silver in Friday’s 7.5-kilometer sprint in 21:16.0 (1+1), just 3.6 seconds back from France’s Fabian Claude, who posted a winning time of 21:12.4 (0+2).

“As Sean came into the fourth stage (Sunday), I was pretty sure he would win and that’s what he did,” said U.S. Biathlon Coach Vladimir Cervenka. “It was very exciting for all of the staff and athletes.”

Doherty was also a member of the mixed U.S. Biathlon relay team that won bronze at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

Doherty’s podium continues a tradition of strong performances by Team USA men at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships. Jay Hakkinen of Alaska won gold in the sprint in 1997, and Leif Nordgren of Minnesota won bronze in the 2008 pursuit.

Anna Kubek placed 25th in Sunday’s Youth (U19) Women’s 7.5-kilometer pursuit with a time of 31:36.0 (1+0+1+0). Uliana Kaisheva of Russia had back-to-back wins this weekend, topping Sunday’s pursuit with a time of 26:44.4 (1+1+1+1), following a win in Friday’s 6.6-kilometer sprint.

Casey Smith (Methow Valley, WA) took 23rd – up from a start with bib 43 – in Sunday’s Junior (U21) Men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit with a time of 40:05.4 (0+0+1+0). Johannes Thongnes Boe of Norway won the Junior sprint with a time of 34:58.2 (0+1+2+0).

“Besides Sean today, our other athletes that were racing – Anna and Casey – both improved,” Cervenka said. “All the nations recognized that this is something special and they congratulated us. Hopefully, this will get more kids interested in biathlon.”