FORT KENT — After not being able to compete in last weekend’s Biathlon World Cup in Presque Isle, Tim Burke was thrilled to be on the trails at the 10th Mountain Ski Center Thursday morning.
Burke, a resident of Paul Smith’s, N.Y., placed 47th in the 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) race, covering the race in 27 minutes, 8.3 seconds.
“I’ve been sick for over two weeks, I haven’t been able to train really at all, and it was a really tough day,” Burke said.
Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway took home the gold in 24:51.4 while Michal Slesinger of the Czech Republic was seven seconds back.
Tarjei Boe of Norway, the world’s top-ranked biathlete, rounded out the top three in 25:00.7.
Lowell Bailey’s 31st-place effort was the top finish for the United States.
Biathlon is an Olympic sport that combines cross-country skiing with low-caliber rifle target shooting.
Svendsen, who is ranked second worldwide, didn’t compete in the seventh Cup event after deciding he needed some extra training, and his traveling excursion to the St. John Valley was certainly unforgettable.
“I traveled from Norway solo, to Boston, then to Presque Isle, on the smallest airplane I’ve ever seen,” said Svendsen, who arrived in the County on Sunday.
The rest paid off for Svendsen, who last competed in Antholz Jan. 20-22.
“Many of these racers have been competing in the last week and I’ve been doing a lot of training,” Svendsen said. “I decided to pass on the first World Cup here in the U.S. and that was a good decision.”
Svendsen believes Fort Kent’s course is one of the toughest.
“I think what’s so special about this course is you have to be really strong, the first uphill is the steepest uphill I’ve ever skiied,” he said.
Boe made his way onto the medal stand thanks to an unblemished effort on the range, as he hit all 10 of his targets.
Boe’s third-place finish enabled him to maintain his perch atop the Cup standings, while Svendsen is still second.
“He can’t say that he’s the best biathlete in the world, but he’s good,” Boe joked. “He’s always up there. You have to bring your A-game to beat him.”
Bailey felt his shooting could have been better, as he missed his first target of the day and his last, leaving him searching for answers.
“That’s really frustrating,” Bailey said. “I’m not disappointed, but in the same token I’m not ecstatic about it or anything.”
Burke, who has trained in Fort Kent, was thrilled to be returning to the County to compete.
“I haven’t been up here in like four, five years, so its nice to be back and see some of the people I skied with,” he said.
While the opening hill certainly makes Fort Kent’s trails a challenge, the single-digit temperatures made skiing difficult.
“It’s a really tough course, I think it’s one of the toughest on the World Cup, especially with this really cold, dry snow,” Burke said.
Burke’s shooting was clean from the prone position, but he missed three targets from the standing position, costing him valuable time.
“I’m really surprised I missed those three, that’s the way it goes sometimes,” Burke said.
NBA Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen, who helped lead the Chicago Bulls to six world championships in the 1990s, is scheduled to arrive in the County Friday, and will be at the venue on Saturday.
Pippen is flying into Presque Isle from Boston.
The women will hold their 7.5K sprint race Friday at 11:30 a.m.