FORT KENT – The biggest crowds of the week at the 10th Mountain Ski Center were treated to temperatures that climbed into the teens and a photo finish in the World Cup biathlon men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit.

Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway started first Saturday morning among a field of 55. Martin Fourcade of France started fourth, 10 seconds behind. Each shot perfect in two prone stages.

Fourcade missed once in the first standing stage. Svendsen missed once in the final standing stage.

“I saw when I finished the penalty loop that Martin was coming out of the range and I thought, ‘Oh, my God. This is going to be tough.’” Svendsen said. “But I think it was good for the audience. There was a lot of tension.”

Fourcade stayed close behind Svendsen as they glided around the final 2.5-kilometer lap. They returned to a wildly cheering crowd in the stadium, made the final climb and looped around a stand of white birches before sprinting toward the finish line.

Svendsen, on the left, thrust forward his left ski. Fourcade stuck out his right, then tumbled across the line, nearly taking out Svendsen.

The clock showed each skier with a total time of 35 minutes, 46.0 seconds, but the finish-line photo showed Svendsen’s ski crossing about an inch before that of Fourcade.

THE WOMEN’S 10K pursuit wasn’t nearly as dramatic. Andrea Henkel of Germany hit 19 of 20 targets and never gave up the lead to win in 31:09.1. Her countrywoman Magdalena Neuner was second, 24.8 seconds behind.

The victories for Svendsen and Henkel were each worth just under $14,900, in addition to whatever bonuses they receive from sponsors. Prize money is paid through 10 places.

LOWELL BAILEY was the top U.S. finisher Saturday, at 25th despite forgetting to replace half of his ammunition clips after sighting his rifle. Jay Hakkinen (34th), Leif Nordgren (40th) and Tim Burke (49th) rounded out the American men.

For the U.S. women, Sara Studebaker dropped 10 places from Friday’s 17th-place sprint finish but still squeezed into today’s mass start race. She was 4:30.6 behind Henkel.

“Out on the tracks it was not my day,” said Studebaker, who hit 17 of 20 targets. “With the way I was feeling skiing, it was a good result for me.”

LAURA SPECTOR (42nd) and Haley Johnson (43rd) avoided the fate of nine women lapped by Henkel, and thus forced to quit the race.

Listed as 5 feet tall, Spector is the shortest member of the U.S. team. After her race, she had a photo taken with former basketball star Scottie Pippen, who was invited to the event by a Russian friend on the International Biathlon Union.

“It was kind of funny,” Spector said. “I don’t even think he has to lift his hand up to put it on my shoulder.”

PIPPEN TRIED his hand at shooting a rifle after the races and found he had better success sitting than standing. He also went for a snowmobile ride.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I got here,” Pippen said. “The fans here are totally behind the sport. These athletes are superb. Their conditioning is just amazing.”

Pippen, who won Olympic gold in Barcelona and Atlanta, joined a press conference that included fellow gold medal winners Henkel and Neuner.

“Obviously, I can’t ski and probably won’t be getting on any skis in the very near future,” he said, “but I have much respect for these athletes and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

THE INTERNATIONAL Parade of Lights Friday night included 72 components, some of them groups of marchers and others aboard flat-bed trucks. The parade started across the St. John River in Clair, New Brunswick and crossed the International Bridge, passing through U.S. Customs along the way before turning up a Main Street lined with thousands of onlookers braving temperatures near zero.

Gov. Paul LePage rode in one of the first vehicles. Pippen sneaked a look from upstairs in the Swamp Buck restaurant.

“What little I saw of it,” Pippen said, “it was long.”

One unusual float was sponsored by a kiln-dried firewood distributor and featured several folks wearing camping gear and roasting marshmallows over an open fire ring. After appropriate browning, the gooey treats were offered to the crowd.

And, yes, to be safe, the float with the open flame was followed by a fire truck staffed by, among others, Smokey Bear.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]