Bailey falls back to 13th in mass start

It was a tough end for Team USA at Sunday’s 15-kilometer mass start at the biathlon world championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid cleaned his first three shooting stages and climbed as high as second to stay among the top four throughout most of the mass start.

Going into the final shooting stage, Bailey was second, just 1.6 seconds back from World Cup leader Martin Fourcade of France, with the field of the top 13 athletes within just 14 seconds of each other. Bailey missed two targets, and dropped to 14th and finished 13th with a time 37 minutes, 25.2 seconds.

“More than ever, I realize that at this level, a podium result requires perfection,” Bailey said after the race. “That’s what I’ve strived for in training and that’s what I will continue to strive for looking forward to the final three World Cups and beyond. I felt great today. My skis were great, I felt good physically, and I was relaxed and confident in the range.

“Of course, I would like to have cleaned that last stage, but other than that, I had the race I wanted to have. I think this statement pretty much sums up how I feel about today and this world champs: I’ve never been more hungry for the podium at any point in my career than right now.”

Tarjei Boe won the mass start for Norway, posting a time of 36:15.8 with clean shooting. Anton Shipulin of Russia took silver with clean shooting and a time of 36:19.3. Norway’s Emill Hegle Svendsen won bronze with a time of 36:23.2 and one penalty.

Boe’s win put Norway’s gold medal count at eight, the most ever won by a nation in the biathlon world championships.

Tim Burke of Paul Smiths finished in 30th place after being involved in a crash. On the first loop of the race, two athletes went down in front of Burke on a high speed downhill corner. With no time or space to maneuver, Burke skied into one and flew off the course into a ditch.

Skiing hard to climb from 30th place, Burke struggled with his rifle in the first two stages, which had been jammed with snow from the fall, and picked up five penalties. Burke regained control and cleaned his final two stages, but could not make up time lost with the earlier crash. He finished the race in 41:15.5 (2+3+0+0).

“I was really motivated for this race and I thought I definitely had a chance to fight for another podium,” Burke said. “Unfortunately, I was involved in a bad crash on the first loop where I ended up off of the course. During the crash I rolled on my rifle and it ended up totally jamming with snow. From that point, my race was essentially over as it took me a few minutes to get the rifle functioning once I got in the range. I was pretty disappointed to end world champs like this, but that’s the way biathlon goes sometimes.”

Participation in the mass start was limited to 30 competitors who started simultaneously, rather than timed intervals as in other biathlon events. The field of 30 is based on the top 15 in the current World Cup total score, and – in world championship competition – the three sets of three medalists in the individual, sprint and pursuit competitions, with the medalists of the world championships normally wearing the start numbers from 1 to 9.

Following his silver in Thursday’s 20k individual, Burke started with bib No. 3, while Bailey wore No. 27.

Team relay

Team USA took 12th in the men’s 4×7.5-kilometer relay on Saturday.

Bailey, Burke, Russell Currier of Stockholm, Maine and Leif Nordgren of Marine, Minn. posted a time of 1:19:40.8 (0+12).

Team Norway won gold with a time of 1:15:39 (0+5), ahead of Team France which edged Germany at the finish for silver (1:16:51.8/0+7).