January 20, 2023 | at the FISU Winter University Games
Thursday was a great day for U.S. biathlon as the country celebrated its first gold medal in an international biathlon event since 2017, courtesy of Bjorn Westervelt at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games men’s 12.5km event.
The student-athlete from the University of Vermont finished second behind Ukrainian Dmytry Hruszczak in the final shooting session. While Westervelt scored a perfect five out of five, his rival missed one target.
After Hruszczak had to pit on the 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 from Poland won bronze with a time of 36:46.4.
“Winning gold in general is really special, but doing it in the US is even more special,” said Westervelt, who already won silver in the 10k sprint on Wednesday.
“It comes down to both shooting and dealing with the pressure,” he added of a recent photo shoot. “I knew I would be in second place. And I knew I had to do it, and it was amazing.
“I just like challenges. It’s so hard and I love it all.”
Equally exciting was the women’s 7.5 km pursuit run. The finish line was crossed by Shilo Rousseau from Canada, waving the flag, breaking the winning time of 32:24.4.
Rousseau took first place in the third session. While the Canadian kept a clean sheet, then Polish leader Anna Nedza-Kubiniec (33:04.5) missed twice, resulting in two penalty loops.
Then the rivals missed once in the fourth session and Rousseau kept the lead, and the Polish Barbara Skrobiszewska (33.39.3) stood on the podium.
“This is crazy. I would never have expected it,” said the winner, already crowned FISU Games champion in Saturday’s 12.5km individual and bronze medalist in Wednesday’s 7.5km sprint. “I really didn’t know how I can handle it, and I really only came here to gain experience.”
This was Rousseau’s first time skiing at Lake Placid.
“It’s a very fun and wonderful event and I’m very happy that it turned out so much better than I imagined.”
“What I like most about biathlon is that everything can change. You can go in first and in the blink of an eye you can miss all your objectives and fall far behind, or vice versa. The volatility of it and how it really is wide open and anyone can really do well.
The 2023 Lake Placid biathlon competition will culminate on Saturday with the men’s 15km mass run and the women’s 12.5km mass run.
Written by Julieta Boschiazzo, FISU Young Reporter
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