Starter error frustrates biathletes, guardsman
02-16-2010 09:15 PM
WHISTLER, British Columbia — Biathlete Sgt. Jeremy Teela is a veteran of three Olympic Games and countless World Cups.
Still, he had never experienced a start like the one that unfolded during the men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit Tuesday at Whistler Olympic Park.
Although he had earned the No. 9 position, Teela was pushed out of the gate too early and started ahead of the No. 8 skier.
“This never happens. I mean maybe some guy will get out a couple seconds early, but when they let you out a complete person ahead ... that never happens,” Teela said.
In a pursuit race, athletes are staggered according to their finish in a previous race. Teela earned the No. 9 spot — best among the Americans — after he placed ninth in Sunday’s 10-kilometer sprint.
But an official at the start line yelled, “Go!” and Teela took off ahead of the No. 8 starter, Bjorn Ferry of Sweden.
“Teela was supposed to start after me,” said Ferry, whose time of 33 minutes, 38.4 seconds was good enough for the gold medal. “I saw [Austria’s Christoph] Sumann about to start and said, ‘Sumann, stop. You’re 12th, I’m 8th.’ It was strange. Some of them were 10 to 20 seconds off. That’s not good. I knew something was wrong.”
Canada’s Jean Philippe Leguellec was also forced to begin his race early. The two both had time — 22 seconds for Teela and 30 for Leguellec — added to their finish.
There were also problems with the start during the women’s pursuit earlier in the day.
“It just doesn’t feel right,” said U.S. coach Per Nilsson, who said that he’s never seen Olympic starts as poorly managed as they were Tuesday.
Neither Canada nor the U.S. made a formal complaint, in part because it was the starter — not their athletes — who was at fault. If it was a racer error at the start, the time penalty would have been more severe.
Teela, 33, realized there had been an error when he reached the shooting range in better position than he thought.
“I was bib 9, and I passed nobody on the course,” said Teela, who is a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. “That’s what I realized something was wrong.”
Teela had Team USA’s best finish, at 24th in 35:45.4. But he was frustrated with the starting-line mishap, which he said threw off his strategy because he thought he was racing head-to-head with medal contenders.
“It’s a real big bummer,” he said.
Teela was perfect in his first two shooting range stops — both prone — but missed two targets on each of his last two laps.
“We have a couple more races this week,” Teela said. “Hopefully the organizers figure this problem out and they make the races fair.”
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