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U.S. Biathlon Team Competes in Switzerland

The U.S. Biathlon Team competed in Lenzerheide, Switzerland for a IBU World Cup this past weekend. The event featured a sprint, pursuit and the first mass start of the season.

After two solid days of racing in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Deedra Irwin of Pulaski, Wisconsin and the Army World Class Athlete Program found herself amongst the top 30 female biathletes in the world in the first mass start of the season. Adding to her list of World Cup personal bests, Irwin shot her first perfect 20/20.

“Emil (Bormetti) and Armin (Auchentaller) gave me an amazing pep talk last night,” Irwin said. “We tried to focus on coming into this race with less nerves and focusing on one thing at a time. It feels incredible to have it all come together. My first 20/20 on the World Cup and in a mass start! I couldn’t ask for a more perfect day.”

Irwin crossed the line in 13th, just 1.27.9 behind the leader, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet of France, who swept the weekend by also winning the sprint and pursuit races. Braisaz-Bouchet was joined on the podium by Swedish sisters Elvira and Hanna Oeberg.

In the pursuit, the nerves showed in the first round of shooting with two misses, but she was able to shoot clean the rest of the way and finish 21st. Irwin currently sits in 27th on the World Cup total score with 93 points, which landed her bib 27 in the mass start.

The coming weeks will be a rest period for the U.S. Biathlon Team. World Cup racing will resume on Jan. 4, 2024 in Oberhof, Germany. The weekend will feature another round of sprint, pursuit and mass start races to kick off the second trimester.

Men’s 10K sprint

A stellar performance from Vincent Bonacci of Salt Lake City, Utah and Team Crosscut landed him a World Cup personal best 49th place in the men’s 10K sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. With just one miss in standing, Bonacci qualified for his first World Cup pursuit.

“I am happy to have had a World Cup where I didn’t really feel stressed to race, and was just happy to have some sun and mountain air to go for a fun race in,” Bonacci said. “It’s super cool to be in the top 60 with Jake and Sean.”

Bonacci’s time was 2:30 behind the sprint victor, Benedikt Doll of Germany, who shot a perfect 10/10. Doll was joined on the podium by Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway and German teammate Philipp Nawrath.

This season has been one of notable improvements for Bonacci. His 49th place performance was a 17-spot jump from his previous World Cup personal best 66th in last season’s sprint at the World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Two weeks ago, at the IBU Cup in Kontiolahti, Finland, Bonacci also jumped 16 spots to claim sixth place in the individual and a spot in the flower ceremony.

Team USA teammates Sean Doherty of Center Conway, New Hampshire and National Guard Biathlon and Jake Brown of Saint Paul, Minnesota and Craftsbury Green Racing Project also qualified for the pursuit. Doherty finished in 27th place with one miss standing, and Brown finished only one second ahead of Bonacci in 48th, with two misses in standing. Campbell Wright of Wanaka, New Zealand and U.S. Biathlon crossed the line in 72nd with one miss in both prone and standing.

Women’s 7.5K sprint

Irwin raced to a World Cup-best eighth place in the women’s 7.5K sprint, kicking off the first-ever World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. She landed just one spot off her career-best seventh place from the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China, a historic finish for U.S. Biathlon.

“Emil and Armin really helped me put together a good ski plan for the race the past couple of days, and I really felt confident on the range all week,” Irwin said. “Fede, Gio and the wax team gave me amazing skis today. Honestly, we’ve all been saying it since Ostersund that I have all the puzzle pieces and just had to fit them all together on the same day. Today was that day. It was a perfect team effort from everyone to keep me motivated and working the course from start to finish!”

Shooting a perfect 10/10, Irwin crossed the line only 13 seconds behind Germany’s Franziska Preuss and 1.12.6 off the leader, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet of France, who also shot clean. Braisaz-Bouchet was joined on the podium by Norway’s Ingrid Tandrevold and Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi.

Coming into the sprint race in Lenzerheide, Irwin’s World Cup personal best was a 14th in the sprint in Otep, Estonia during the 2021/22 season. Jumping six spots to rewrite her personal best as eighth.

“I am very, very proud of her,” U.S. Biathlon National Team head coach Armin Auchentaller said. “It was a very tough race and the conditions were tricky. The ski techs have done a really good job and all the pieces came together. Deedra showed her ability to race at the level of best in the world on a very tough track, which will give her more confidence in the future.”

Team USA also had a World Cup personal best from Grace Castonguay of Jackson, New Hampshire and Ethan Allen Biathlon Club with a 74th place finish in her second-ever World Cup start. Jackie Garso of Lake Clear and Craftsbury Green Racing Project finished in 80th. Kelsey Dickinson of Winthrop, Washington and Craftsbury Green Racing Project did not race in the sprint.

Source: Adirondack Daily Enterprise