New, steep hills claim casualties

Posted March 22, 2009, at 10:20 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — It was a wild end to the U.S. National Biathlon Championships and North American Cup races Sunday at the 10th Mountain Ski Lodge with a challenging new course hill claiming more than one victim over three days of racing.

Alexandra Dickson, a youth women’s skier with British Columbia Biathlon was taken by ambulance from the center with unspecified injuries after falling at the base of the hill behind the timing hut.

Though no official reports were available Sunday afternoon, organizers said Dickson appeared to indicate she had a head injury, possibly from the barrel of her rifle hitting her as she fell.

The hill drops at a dizzying 30 degrees before rising into a lefthand turn and climbing 28 degrees behind the spectators bleachers.

For some, that turn ended when they were caught by crash fencing placed around the curve’s perimeter.

Dickson fell going into that curve and slid face-down into the crash fence. It took the British Columbia skier several minutes to get up and back on the course, but when she skied into the stadium she shot clean from the prone position.

On her second trip through she missed two targets before being taken off the course and transported to Northern Maine Medical Center.

Perhaps the most visually spectacular fall in competition came Sunday from Chester Jacobs of the Southern Maine Biathlon Club when he skied in the boys’ 7.5-kilometer mass start.

“I caught a rut and got stuck going around the corner,” Jacobs said. “It took a lot out of me to get on top of that next hill.”

Jacobs did go on to win the event with a time of 36 minutes, 41.5 seconds, just more than a minute ahead of teammate Jackson Hall.

“It’s a tough course,” U.S. biathlete Tracy Barnes-Colliander said Sunday.

The winner of the women’s pursuit and mass start races said she kept on her skis by avoiding the ruts made by other skiers.

“I just look at where everyone else skied and then choose another line,” Barnes-Colliander said.

Fellow double gold medalist Grace Boutot of Fort Kent wasn’t so lucky.

“I fell three times the first day [of racing]” she said after Saturday’s pursuit race. “But today I didn’t fall at all.”

Officials at the 10th Mountain Lodge had worked last year to bring the trails into accordance with recommendations from the International Biathlon Union looking for a more challenging course.

Judging from the athletes’ reactions, they more than succeeded.

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