2019 off to a great start for two-time Olympian now ranked first on U.S. team
CONWAY — The new year is off to a great start for Center Conway’s Sean Doherty. The two-time Olympian has posted back-to-back first-rate results on the World Cup tour, including a career-best 13th place finish Sunday in a mass state 15K in Germany.
Doherty, 23, the No. 1 athlete on the U.S. Biathlon Team, is healthy, “feeling great” and beginning to see the result he’s been shooting for, literally.
Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
In his first race of 2019, a 10K sprint in Oberhof, Germany, on Jan. 11, Doherty, the son of Mary and Dan Doherty of Center Conway, was the top U.S. finisher, placing 22nd overall in the International Biathlon Union World Cup. With one penalty in prone shooting position (laying on his stomach) and another in standing, Doherty crossed the finish line 1 minute, 58.4 seconds behind winner Alexander Loginov of Russia.
The race, held in fog, light snow and wind along with fridge temperatures — conditions far better suited for an indoor activity, but Doherty was pleased with his performance.
“I am happy to start the new year with a solid race here in the ever-challenging conditions in Oberhof," Doherty said following the race. “Should be a fun one tomorrow with continued messy weather, so we will see what happens."
With a top 40 result, Doherty was in the field for the 12.5 K pursuit on Jan. 12. The Kennett High grad was able to work his way from the 22nd starting spot to an 18th place finish in even more tricky conditions that featured heavy, almost blinding snow and constantly changing wind gusts.
Still, Doherty was able to finish 2:29.9 behind Norway's Johannes Thingnes Boe, who won the men's pursuit with three penalties in 34:29.8.
After two penalties on the opening prone shooting stage knocked him back to 37th place, Doherty went clean the rest of the way to make his way back into the top 20.
"I am happy to put up a good fight today...on the skis and with the wind on the range," Doherty said on the U.S. Biathlon website. "After the misses in the first prone I regrouped mentally and kept my focus on my own work, not what the wind was doing, and it worked out well.”
On Jan. 12, Doherty skied the second leg on the men’s 4X7.5K relay with teammates Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.), Travis Cooper (Kenai, Alaska) and Max Durtschi (Ketchum, Idaho), to finish 19th overall with Russia winning the race.
“Nordgren crashed on the opening leg and then had to take extra time on the range to clear his rifle of snow that accumulated during the spill,” according to U.S. Biathlon. “Despite the distraction, Nordgren somehow managed to use just two spares in prone and another in standing. A clean second leg from Sean Doherty kept the team in contention.”
Doherty carried his momentum onto Ruhpolding, Germany on Sunday for the men's 15K mass start on the final day of the IBU World Cup to post his best-ever finish in the event, placing 13th overall.
“It is always a pleasure to race a mass start,” Doherty said. “Today we had a fantastic race atmosphere. I am very happy to have held my own going toe-to-toe with the best in the world. Looking forward to the next mass start.”
Doherty’s previous best in the mass start was 24th and his performance Sunday ties a career-high performance in World Cup events, equaling a 13th-place finish in the sprint three years ago.
“After starting in the 30th position in the 30-man field, Doherty spent the first half of the race near the tail end with single penalties in both prone stages, but he turned up the heat in the second half of the race,” U.S. Biathlon stated. “Fueled by clean stages in standing, Doherty raced to the third-fastest time on lap 3, and the fifth-fastest time on lap 4 to move up the field and cross the line in 13th position, 42.2 seconds behind the leader. Overall, he had the fifth-best range time in the field.”
Boe made a comeback on the last loop to win the men's mass start in 36:43.8 with a single standing penalty. Austria's Julian Eberhard, with two penalties, finished second, .6 seconds back. Quentin Fillon Maillet of France, with one penalty, finished third, 2.8 seconds behind Boe.
Doherty was named to the U.S. roster for the IBU World Cup No. 6 in Antholtz, Italy, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
Doherty, the youngest member ever named to the U.S. Olympic biathlon team, competed in Sochi at the age of 18.
Doherty had a breakout season in 2013, winning a gold and two silver medals in the IBU Junior World Championships, the first U.S. Biathlon athlete to triple podium at any World Championship event. It marked the first time in U.S. biathlon history any athlete (youth/senior) had won three individual medals in World Championship competition. He was the most decorated athlete, male or female, at those championships.
Doherty also was a member of the 2012 U.S. Youth Olympic Games squad competing in Innsbruck, Austria, where he took bronze as a member of the mixed relay team.
Doherty began skiing when he was 4 years old. He learned how to skate ski at age 7 when his neighbors introduced him to the sport. He is a member of the Mount Washington Nordic Club and the Eastern Slope Ski Club. He was the individual state champion his freshman and sophomore years while skiing for Kennett High.
Doherty made his debut in the Olympics as a member of the men’s 4x7.5-kilometer relay team in Sochi. The U.S. finished 16th overall. Doherty skied the third leg of the relay.
In 2014, following the Olympics, Doherty went to the IBU Junior World Championships in Presque Isle, Maine, and won two gold medals in the pursuit and sprint events and silver in the 12.5K individual race.
With 10 medals, he is the all-time winningest athlete at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships.