Kasilof biathlete Jay Hakkinen finished ninth in the 15-kilometer mass start in Antholz, Italy, on Sunday for the best finish of his career at the World Championships.
Michael Greis of Germany won the race in 37 minutes, 52.1 seconds, with Hakkinen finishing 52.9 seconds back. Hakkinen, who like Greis had two penalties, just missed the flower ceremony, which includes the top eight finishers.
Hakkinen’s previous best in the World Championships was 16th place. It was the seventh top-10 finish of Hakkinen’s career in the World Cup, World Championships and Olympic Games.
“I was happy to be fighting for the podium all day, so that makes it a good race,” Hakkinen told U.S. Biathlon’s Web site. “But I am disappointed to not be in the top eight.”
In the mass start, all the competitors leave the start line together. There are then two prone shooting stages followed by standing shooting stages. For each miss at the shooting range, competitors must ski a 150-meter penalty loop, losing 20 to 30 seconds.
Hakkinen missed one shot at the first prone stage, but he left the penalty loop in 16th place because many others also missed at the first stage. Hakkinen was clean and fast at the second stage, moving up to 10th place, 27.4 seconds behind the leader.
At the first standing stage, Hakkinen quickly bowled over all the targets to move up into fourth place. At the next standing stage, Hakkinen had one penalty to ruin his chance at a medal, but he still left the stadium in fifth place in a tight group of athletes. He held on for ninth place.
After starting the season slowly due to illness, Hakkinen rounded into shape at the World Championships with a 18th in pursuit, a strong relay leg that led to a ninth place for the U.S., and the ninth in the mass start.
The U.S. also showed its depth at the World Championships as Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, N.Y., finished seventh in the 20-kilometer individual.
“I think my preparation as well as our team’s overall was well planned and very professional,” Hakkinen said. “We did everything necessary to have good results.
“I wish I had hit that standing shot, but being able to compete for a top finish is a great feeling. I can tell you that I am really looking forward to next year’s World Championships that are not at altitude.”
World Cup biathlon resumes in two weeks in Lahti, Finland.
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