PRESQUE ISLE — World Cup biathlon returned to Aroostook County Thursday morning for the first time in five years and Susan Dunklee started off the four-day event with a bang.

A 29-year-old native of Barton, Vermont, Dunklee hit all 10 shooting targets and skied fast enough to win a silver medal in the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint Thursday afternoon under overcast skies and occasional snowflakes at the Nordic Heritage Center.

It matches the best finish by a U.S. woman in World Cup biathlon history.

Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic, the World Cup points leader, won the race in 20 minutes, 2.2 seconds. Dunklee was just under 18 seconds behind, edging bronze medalist Krystyna Guzik of Poland by 1.3 seconds.

“This is a dream-come-true day for me,” Dunklee said. “To have my best result on the home course when we only have a World Cup here every five years is just phenomenal. My family is here. So many friends and supporters are here. So many supporters of U.S. Biathlon are here. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”

Dunklee qualified in second position for Friday’s 10k pursuit competition. Two other Americans also made the 60-women field. Hannah Dreissigacker of Morrisville, Vermont finished 27th with a single missed shot in prone position and Cape Elizabeth native Clare Egan placed 32nd – 1 minute and 38.8 seconds behind Soukalova – with one miss in standing.


Earlier Thursday, Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway won the men’s 10k sprint with a perfect 10-for-10 shooting performance and needed only 24:38.8 seconds to cover the race course under sunshine and temperatures in the low 20s.

Runner-up Anton Shipulin of Russia, also with clean shooting, was 27.9 seconds behind. Martin Fourcade, the overall World Cup points leader, was one second behind Shipulin in third, with one miss in standing.

Warmly dressed fans cheered on biathletes from 25 nations, waving flags and clanging cowbells. Many of the spectators were local schoolchildren.

“We can feel that it’s a school crowd, but that’s good,” said Fourcade, who also competed in Presque Isle in 2011. “I think the aim of the World Cup is to create a good event and to bring people and I was disappointed (in the crowds) last week in Canmore (Alberta).”

Fourcade said it’s difficult to create excitement for an event when there’s a five-year gap between tour visits. But on Thursday, the folks in Aroostook County succeeded.

“The people here, you know, in American style, are always positive, always cheering,” he said. “That was cool. It’s what we love in biathlons, is having fans and cheer. So I was satisfied.”

Two American men broke into the top 15 Thursday. Sean Doherty of Center Conway, New Hampshire was 13th with one miss in standing and Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid, New York, was 15th, also with one standing miss, only 6 seconds behind Doherty.

Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, New York, missed one shot in prone and one in standing, and placed 20th. Leif Nordgren of Forest Lake, Minnesota, was 65th with three misses, just missing the top 60 men who qualified for Friday’s pursuit.

Until Thursday, the best finish by an American woman at the highest level of biathlon was second place by Anna Sonnerup in a World Cup event in Germany in 1990.

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