Guard biathlete takes third place in IBU Cup trials
December 20, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 19, 2013) -- Pfc. Wynn Roberts finished third overall in the International Biathlon Union Cup trials, Dec. 14-18, at Mt. Itasca, Minn., narrowly missing a berth on the U.S. World Cup Team and a possible chance to compete in the Winter Olympics.
Only the top two finishers from the International Biathlon Union, or IBU, Cup trials go forward to join Staff Sgt. Jeremy Teela and the U.S. team to compete in World Cup races in Ridnaun, Italy, Jan. 3-5, and have a shot at the Olympics.
Teela, a three-time Olympian and member of the Army World Class Athlete Program, has been competing this month in World Cup races in France. He is still vying for one of the last two nominations to the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team, which will be announced next month following the World Cup in Italy.
STRONG START FOR ROBERTS
Roberts -- a member of the National Guard Biathlon Program who competed in the 2010 Olympics as a substitute -- began the IBU Cup trials strong, taking second place in the 10-kilometer sprint, Dec. 14, 2013. He missed first place by less than two seconds, finishing in 31:09.3, just behind Casey Smith of Washington state.
Growing up in Minnesota, Roberts skied Mt. Itasca many times and said he felt comfortable with the course, despite calling it the toughest hill in the Midwest to climb with cross-country skis.
"I would say that Mt. Itasca is my home course. I've been racing there since I was 14 years old," said Roberts, now 25.
Some of his family and friends even came to cheer him on this week.
WEATHER PROVES FACTOR
The single-digit temperatures this week in Minnesota, however, didn't help Roberts fight off his own cold symptoms.
"I've been fighting a little bit of an illness the past three or four weeks," Roberts said, explaining that he contracted a sore throat competing last month in Canada.
"I wasn't 100 percent. My skiing suffered and my shooting suffered," he said. "It wasn't the ideal situation for trials."
The frigid temperatures and the wind were both factors all week in shooting, Roberts said.
On Tuesday, the wind was blowing about 20 miles an hours from the west, demanding an eight-click adjustment on windage for his .22-caliber rifle. Then the next day, the wind was blowing just as strong from the opposite direction, required even more adjustment.
"If I would have hit a couple more targets, that would have changed the outcome," Roberts said, explaining that each miss removes 25 seconds from a competitor's finishing time.
He missed three shots standing and one prone the first day; only one from each position in the second 10-km race; but he missed a total of eight targets in the 15-km mass start race on Dec. 17, 2013; and four total the last day.
Sub-zero temperatures postponed the Dec. 15, biathlon competition for a day. Roberts finished the 10-km sprint, Dec.16, in third place with a time of 32:23.1, just over a minute behind leader Casey Smith and second-place finisher Russell Currier.
New snow slowed the course all week, Roberts said, explaining that about eight inches of powder made the cross-country skiing about six to seven minutes slower than the course's record pace.
Roberts finished the 15-km mass start race, Dec. 17, in fifth place with a time of 52:34.8, three minutes behind winner Russell Courier and second-place finisher Casey Smith.
Roberts finished the final 10-km sprint in fourth place, Dec. 18, with a time of 29:24.8, a minute and 7 seconds behind leader Russell Currier. He also missed two shots standing and two shots prone.
The combined points from the five days of racing put him in third place behind first-place finisher Casey Smith and runner-up Russell Currier.
"It was close, but not quite close enough," Roberts said, somewhat disappointed at missing a shot at the Winter Olympics, scheduled for Feb. 7-23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
"That's the way it goes," he said. "There will be another chance in four years."
Roberts plans to stay in Minnesota until after Jan. 1. Although he is now a member of the Vermont National Guard, he still calls Battle Lake, Minn., his hometown. On Saturday, he will be the best man for his brother's wedding in Battle Lake.
OTHER GUARD COMPETITORS
Wynn's brother, Spc. Conrad Roberts, is also a member of the National Guard Biathlon Program who competed the last two years on the Junior World Cup circuit. Conrad skipped the IBU Cup trials due to the wedding.
Two other young Guardsmen, however, competed at Mt. Itasca this week. Spc, Jake Dalberg, 20, of the Minnesota National Guard, finished in 10th place overall. Pfc. Jordan McElroy, 19, Vermont National Guard, finished the trials in 11th place.
Dalberg began the IBU cup only missing one shot (standing) in the first 10-km race. He finished in seventh place with a time of 32:48.5. McElroy was right behind, finishing eighth with a time of 33:37.4.
On the final day, Dalberg finished the 10-km sprint in ninth place with a time of 31:45.6. McElroy finished in 11th place. They both return to Vermont on Christmas Day for junior races.
The National Guard Biathlon training facility is at Camp Ethan Allen, Vt., and Roberts will return there after the holidays to prepare for the National Guard championship races and the Conseil International du Sport Militaire, or CISM competition scheduled for March, in Finland.
Teela will compete in the World Cup races in Ridnaun, Italy, Jan. 3-5, and must do well to secure a nomination to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The four-man U.S. Biathlon Team is already anchored by Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid, N.Y., and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths. N.Y., who earned early nominations to Team USA.
Teela joined Burke and Bailey, Dec. 13, to compete in an IBU World Cup relay race at Annecy-Le Grand Bornand, France. The team finished in eighth place. Teela skied third in the four-leg relay, taking two extra shots in the prone position, but shooting five for five in the standing position. In the 10-km sprint competition, Dec. 14, Teela finished 87th overall, with a time of 25:21.5.