US begins quest for first-ever Olympic biathlon medal

The U.S. had a shot to win its first ever Olympic medal in biathlon on Saturday at the PyeongChang Games.

Kicking off the biathlon events in South Korea was the women’s 7.5km sprint, with Susan Dunklee the Americans’ best shot at a medal. However, Dunklee finished in 66th place behind two other Americans, Emily Dreissigacker who finished 51st, and Clare Egan, at 61st.

Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier won the gold with perfect marksmanship finishing with a time of 21:06.2. Marte Olsbu of Norway took the Silver with one missed shot, finishing 24.2 seconds behind Dahlmeier. Veronika Vitkova of the Czech Republic came away with the bronze, also missing only one shot and 25.8 seconds behind the gold medal winner.

Biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, has the dubious distinction of being the only sport at the Winter Olympics in which the U.S. has never won a medal.

The best individual finish any American biathlete has had at the Olympics came four years ago when Lowell Bailey, who will compete in his fourth Olympics in PyeongChang, placed eighth in the men’s 20km individual in Sochi.

However, the mixed relay and women’s relay teams, both of which included Dunklee, finished eighth and seventh, respectively, during those same 2014 Olympics. And with the Russian women’s relay team being disqualified from their fourth-place finish that year, the U.S. women can technically lay claim to sixth place in Sochi.

Dunklee, the daughter of a two-time Olympic cross-country skier, finished 14th in the 7.5km sprint at the 2014 Olympics.

The 31-year-old Vermont native competed five times at the world championships, with her best sprint finish at that level coming with an eighth-place performance in 2016. She was 29th in the sprint at the 2017 world championships, although she won silver in the 12.5km mass start event, her only medal so far on the world stage.

The biathlon events continue Sunday with the men’s 10km sprint.