CONWAY — Just as it seemed like Center Conway’s Sean Doherty was hitting his stride on the world stage in biathlon the plug was pulled on the season due to the COVID-19 virus.
Doherty, 25, opened March with a strong showing in the Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic. He went a perfect 10-for-10 on the range March 6 to place 29th in the men's 10K sprint at the BMW IBU World Cup.
"I am very proud of the clean shooting," Doherty said following the race on the U.S. Biathlon website. "I was very focused and I executed well on the range."
The World Cup in Nove Mesto was held in front of empty stands after the Czech National Security Council closed the venue to all spectators due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Despite the normally boisterous atmosphere at Nove Mesto being eerily silent, athletes like Doherty treated it like the important world cup event it is.
"It was strange to have the venue so empty, especially since the crowds here are some of the best we get," Doherty added. "But it's still a world cup and it's still plenty exciting to race."
Doherty's time was 2 minutes, 25.8 seconds off the winning pace set by Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway. Boe's winning time was 22.8 seconds faster than France's Quentin Fillon Maillet and 1:01.1 quicker than his brother, Tarjei Boe. All three medalists shot clean.
Other Americans in the sprint were Jake Brown (Saint Paul, Minn) in 70th place, Leif Nordgren (Hinesburg, Vt.) in 81st, and Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wis.) in 86th.
The team headed to Kontiolahti, Finland, for the next World Cup stop but no racing took place (see related story). The U.S. Team headed home learning that the remainder of the season was being canceled due to COVID-19.
The 2020 US Biathlon National Championships and the North American Championships, planned to be held in West Yellowstone, Montana March 27-29, were officially canceled on March 14 due to the escalating pandemic.
“The health of our athletes and all people involved in our sport is of paramount importance. As society faces a global pandemic it is also our obligation to do everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19,” US Biathlon President and CEO Max Cobb said. "A national coming together to celebrate sport is not possible under these conditions.”
With the world cup season cut short, Doherty ended up with an overall ranking of 50th (was 25th in the world for the 2018-19 season), but was still the top American male.