PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Leif Nordgren arrived at his second Olympics confident that he is more seasoned and stronger as a biathlete than he showed in his rookie Games in Sochi four years ago.
His first race didn’t meet his expectations.
The Forest Lake High graduate finished 58th in the men’s 10k sprint Sunday night at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre. Though disappointed with his finish, he found a silver lining.
Nordgren qualified for Monday’s (6 a.m. Central time) 12.5k pursuit by virtue of finishing in the top 60.
“It wasn’t the greatest race for me,” Nordgren said. “But I did qualify for the pursuit so I’m happy with that, I guess.”
Wearing bib No. 85, Nordgren finished 2 minutes, 10 seconds behind gold medal winner Arnd Peiffer of Germany.
Nordgren, a native of Marine on St. Croix, finished 44th in this event at Sochi. The 10k sprint is not his strongest event, but he was hoping for a better result.
“The wind made it really tough on the shooting range and the tracks,” he said. “Coming down a couple of the fairways here and turn a corner and the wind is like hitting a brick wall in the face. It made the skiing really tough, too.”
Winds gusted throughout the race, which made it especially difficult on the range. France’s Martin Fourcade, considered one of the favorites, missed three targets from the prone position and finished eighth.
Nordgren missed two targets — one from prone and one from standing.
“Considering the wind, that’s not bad,” Nordgren said. “But this is the Olympics so it’s the highest level of biathlon. It’s an insanely tough field. Two misses is too much for the Olympics.”
Nordgren trains year-round at the U.S. biathlon facility on Lake Placid, N.Y. He said the team prepares for tough conditions like they faced in the opening event.
“We train all year for things like this,” he said. “You just have to do your best to manage it. It takes a lot of training and concentration. I did OK. But I just had two very small mistakes.”