This morning in the 20 km Men’s Individual race in Poland, the top US finisher was Russell Currier, Maine, in 51st with 5 x 1 min penalties and finishing 5:42 behind the winner who had one miss. So he skied 1:42 slower also. Paul Schommer, Wisconsin, in 57th also had 5 misses and finished 6:02 back; and Jakob Ellingson, MN, was 87th with 7 misses and finished 10:11 back. Many of the competitors in the Open European Championships also ski the World Cup which has the weekend off pending the World Championships coming up starting the 6th of Feb. Our top Men  and Women  who have been doing the World Cup races are taking a training break.
So the next races, on Friday for the Senior Men and Women are the Sprint races. The Sprint is the 2nd oldest format still being used in international competition. While it sounds like a short race, compared to Nordic Ski sprints it is quite long. From a biathlon standpoint it is more of a skiers race than some of the other formats with only two shooting bouts, prone and standing.
Starting with an individual start, usually 30 sec intervals, the men do 10 km in 3 x 3.3 km blue course loops, the women do 7.5 km in 3 x 2.5 km green loops. Junior Men do 10 km, Jr W do 7.5 km, Youth Men do 7.5 and Youth Women do 6 km. Penalty loops need to be skied after each shooting with 150 meters of extra skiing for each miss. So the order of the bibs after the penalty loop gives you a clue as to how the race is going. For example after the penalty loop if bib #30 is ahead of bib #28 it means that including the shooting results up to that point, #30 is a minute or more ahead of #28.
Shooting is open allocation, like in the Individual race, where the shooter can pick his shooting lane in prone from #1-15 and in standing from #16-#30. In prone, again, it is best to shoot as close to the lane you zeroed in as possible. Often in standing the last point #30 might be more sheltered from a 9;00 wind, so might be the best choice.
Incidentally, the prone target, while it appears from a distance to be the same size as standing, is actually only 45 mm in diameter, while the standing target is 115 mm. A black plate is necking the target down in prone. Think silver dollar and cd disc….at 50 meters.
For the Juniors [and Youth Vasek and Amanda] the races coming up on Friday are the Single Mixed Relay at 3:00 cst and the Mixed Relay at 6:00. Some highlights might be televised, I’m not sure.
The Single Mixed Relay is a fun event to watch; and is the most recently added format. Each country has a team of 2—one woman and one man. It is a 6 km race for the woman and a 7.5 km for the man. All on a 1.5 km [the orange loop] course with a 75 meter penalty loop. Goes like this: The woman starts in mass with all the women. Skis 1.5 km, comes into the range and has to shoot on her bib number shooting point. Five shots plus up to 3 extras if needed. Any left after 8 shots require the penalty loop per shot. She then skis the second loop, comes into the next available shooting point filling in from the right [all remaining shooting by both is filled in] and shoots standing—5 plus 3 if needed. Immediately after the penalty loop [needed or not] she tags her partner, the man. He does the same sequence and tags the woman again [who has reloaded her extra rounds if need be] She again does the 2 loops, shooting prone, then standing, and retags the man, who has reloaded if need be. He does the same sequence but after his last shooting and any penalty loops needed, he skis an extra finishing lap. Seconds are critical so range time is right up there with ski time.
The mixed relay is a team of 4 normally—2 women and 2 men. The first woman skis first starting in mass with the other 1st leg women, doing 6 km each [2 km red loop] and shoots prone with extra relay rounds if needed, penalty loops if needed, another 2 km shoots standing, another 2 km and tags off the second woman. The 2nd woman does her 6 km with two shootings and tags off the 1st man who skis a 2.5 km green loop etc. The first of the 8 shooting bouts takes place on the teams bib shooting point, all the remainders fill in from the right.
All are fun to watch, with a lot of turnover up in the front of the race. Once your team gets way back it is hard to make it up, but a lot of competition happens in the middle of the pack as well as up front.
As with all relays, both of these formats reward good fast solid shooters as handloading extra rounds breaks up the shooting rhythm and takes time..7-10 sec to pick a bullet out of the stock, feed it into the chamber and get the bolt closed and back in position. So even before needing to use the penalty loop, poor shooters will add 20-30 sec to their range time just getting through the extra shots. Hopefully with 8 bullets for 5 targets they will all go down, but a strange thing happens as your heartrate falls, the shooting tends to get worse before it improves.