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Dry spell over: USA golden in biathlon

Winter Games 20 January 2023

Thursday was a great day for USA biathlon as the country celebrated its first gold medal in an international competition in this discipline since 2017, courtesy of Bjorn Westervelt in the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games men’s 12.5km pursuit.

The University of Vermont student-athlete was in second place behind Ukraine’s Dmytrii Hrushchak going into the last shooting session. While Westervelt shot a perfect five for five, his rival missed one target.

With Hrushchak having to ski a penalty lap, Westervelt was able to take the lead and win the race with a time of 35:38.3, compared to 36:26.3 for the Ukrainian. Wojciech Janik of Poland took bronze in 36:46.4.

“It’s really special to win gold in general but to do it in the US is even more special,” said Westervelt, who had already claimed silver in 10km sprint on Wednesday.

“It comes down to the shooting as well as dealing with a pressure,” he added about the final shooting session. “I knew I was coming into second right there. And I knew I had to do it, and that was amazing.

“I just enjoy the challenge. It’s so hard and I love every bit of that.”

The women’s 7.5km pursuit was equally exciting, with Shilo Rousseau of Canada crossing the finish line waving her flag in a winning time of 32:24.4.

Rousseau moved into first place in the third shoot. While the Canadian had a clean sheet, then-leader Anna Nedza-Kubiniec of Poland (33:04.5) missed twice, resulting in a pair of penalty loops.

The rivals then missed once apiece in their fourth session and Rousseau maintained her lead, with Poland’s Barbara Skrobiszewska (33.39.3) completing the podium.

“It’s crazy. I never would have expected this,” said the winner, already crowned FISU Games champion in Saturday’s 12.5km short individual and bronze medallist in Wednesday’s 7.5km sprint. “I really didn’t know how I would do and I really just came here for the experience.”

This was the first time skiing at Lake Placid for Rousseau.

“It’s a very fun and great event, and I’m so happy that it turned out a lot better than I imagined.”

“What I like the most about biathlon is that things can change. You can come in first and in a blink of an eye you can miss all your targets and be way behind, or the opposite. The variability of it and how it really is wide open, and anybody can really do well.”

The Lake Placid 2023 biathlon competition wraps up on Saturday with the men’s 15km and women’s 12.5km mass start.

Written by Julieta Boschiazzo, FISU Young Reporter

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