Biathlon coach says Burke, Bailey will bounce back
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The U.S. men’s biathlon team is looking to rebound after a disappointing start to the Sochi Winter Olympics.
After two races, the U.S. has just one top-20 finish, Paul Smiths native Tim Burke’s 19th-place result in Saturday’s sprint. His teammate Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid, who had a strong World Cup season leading up to the games, has so far not had the same success on the Olympic stage, finishing 36th in the sprint and 38th in the pursuit.
The Enterprise talked with Per Nilsson, head coach of the U.S. men’s biathlon team, on Tuesday and asked him how Burke and Bailey are handling their struggles so far this Olympics and what they need to do to improve as the games continue.
ADE: After two tough races, what do you think Tim and Lowell’s mindset is as they prepare for their next race?
Nillson: I hope they’re over it. There’s a couple of things for them to remember: that they have the level (of success), and that doesn’t disappear with two races where they don’t get the results they hoped. I think they have reset. We’ve just done one-third of the races. … They were disappointed with yesterday’s pursuit. It was tough conditions, but they are workers and they will bounce back.
ADE: Lowell had such a great year leading up to this. What’s he not doing right now?
Nillson: One (missed) target too much. You see how close it is. Another example today was with Susan (Dunklee). With one hit more she could have been close to the podium today. It’s so tight.
ADE: Tim has said he didn’t get the amount of pre-Olympic training he planned for because he was sick. Is there enough time during the games for him to get in the shape he needs to be in?
Nillson: I think he’s fine. He has trained so hard now for eight years. If he had one week with not perfect preparation, it could be good for him for the next coming two weeks so he’s a little fresher. He was not feeling like he could stand this really high pace then, but with two races now he should have more tolerance. I’m not worried about that because both of them have such a good base, they can have a super next race.
ADE: The U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in biathlon. Do you think that’s put a lot of pressure on Tim and Lowell, or is something in the back of their minds this Olympics?
Nillson: Honestly, I don’t think so. Like Lowell has said, he hasn’t been on the podium yet, and that’s a big dream for him (whether) it’s in the World Cup or the Olympics. I think it’s more like the pressure when you come into the mat and you line up. I don’t think they think, “OK, this could be the first Olympic medal for the U.S.”
ADE: How are the younger members of the team, including Leif Nordgren and Russell Currier, enjoying their first Olympics?
Nillson: For them I think it’s a different experience, but I think they’ve handled it well. Still, they can do more than this. Russell showed really great running shape on the sprint race, but he had four misses. We also still have to bring in the really youngest guy, (18-year-old) Sean Doherty of New Hampshire. That’s a story.