LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Biathlete Bjorn Westervelt knew he had one chance to win his first gold medal of the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games. He had to pass Ukraine’s Dmytrii Hrushchak in the Men’s 12.5-Kilometer Pursuit in either the shooting range or on the final lap. While Hrushchak missed one target—sending him into the penalty loop before the final lap—Westervelt cleaned all five targets and won the first international race for the U.S. in biathlon since 2017.
“The last standing (round in the range), I knew what I had to do, and it was there,” said Westervelt, who earned a silver medal in yesterday’s biathlon sprint.
“It really comes down to the shooting,” he added. “Dealing with the pressure of coming into the range knowing exactly where you are at with the race, it is really awesome.”
Westervelt crossed the line 48 seconds ahead of Hrushchak for the gold medal. The American clocked a time in the 12.5k pursuit of 35 minutes, 38.3 seconds, while the Ukrainian’s time was 36 minutes, 26.3 seconds—good enough for the silver medal.
“Today’s race was quite good,” said Hrushchak. “Just one thing that made me sad is the last shot, the last stage where I missed the second shot. Generally speaking, it was very cool to compete with American biathletes. On the last lap, I really wanted to fight and gain better places. But what happened, happened and I am proud of my result.”
Lake Placid’s Lowell Bailey was the last American biathlete to win an international biathlon race. The four-time Olympian won the men’s 20km individual race at the 2017 world biathlon championships.
Poland’s Janik Wojciech rounded out the podium in third, 1 minutes, 8.1 seconds behind Westervelt (total time 36 minutes, 46.4 seconds). The Polish biathlete missed four targets but skied fast enough to stay ahead of countryman and brother Filip Wojciech, who only missed two targets in his four times through the range but finished nine seconds later in fourth place.
“My skiing was very good,” commented Janik Wojciech. “My service is the best.”
The pursuit started based on results from yesterday’s sprint, with sprint winner Bekentay Turlubekov from Kazakhstan starting first and Westerfelt chasing eight seconds later. But the Kazakhstani missed two targets on his first trip through the shooting range while the American shot clean. Turlubekov ended up finishing in 14th place.
Westervelt is a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Vermont and scored two top six finishes in a college meet last weekend. He credited his good form this year to “just skiing with an insanely fast team all the time, being pushed in workouts,” he said, referring to his UVM teammates.
The biathlon at Lake Placid 2023 continues on Saturday with the men’s and women’s mass starts. Westervelt had originally planned to leave the FISU Games to compete for UVM this weekend but has decided to stay for the mass start.
The FISU World University Games is the world’s largest multi-sporting event for collegiate athletes, ages 17-25. The 11-day Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games feature 1,443 collegiate athletes from 540 universities across 46 countries. The competition consists of 12 winter sports and 85 medal events contested throughout New York state’s Adirondack region, including Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Wilmington, North Creek, Canton and Potsdam.
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For more information about the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games or to purchase tickets, visit www.lakeplacid2023.com.