PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — This is what it’s like when you work so hard and you dream so big and it’s just not your night.
The United States has never won an Olympic medal in biathlon, the ski-and-shoot sport. Susan Dunklee won a silver last year at the world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria. Thus, hopes were high that she might deliver Saturday night in the women’s 7.5-km sprint.
It was not to be. To be a contender in biathlon, you not only have to ski fast, you have to shoot well. The 7.5 km event involves 10 shots, five from a prone position, five standing up. Dunklee missed one of the first five, from the prone position, then — inexplicably — four of the final five.
“It’s tough,” she said afterward. “I’m very disappointed.”
Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier took gold. Norway’s Marte Olsbu won silver and Veronika Vitkova bronze. Dahlmeier shot clean, and finished in 21:06.2; Olsbu, 24.2 seconds behind, missed one shot; Vitkova, 25.8 seconds back, also missed just one.
Dunklee finished 66th.
The other Americans: Emily Dreissigacker finished 51st; Clare Egan, 61st; Joanne Reid Firesteel, 86th.
Coming into these Games, the stars seemed to be aligned: finally, a breakthrough for the Americans at the Olympics in biathlon.
At those 2017 worlds, Lowell Bailey won gold in the 20km individual event. Dunklee took silver in the 12.5km mass start.
Before that, the best individual result for American women had been Dunklee’s fifth-place at the 2012 worlds, in the 15km individual event.
This, then, was the place. Saturday night was the time. Susan Dunklee was the person. The script said so. She is from ski country, upstate Vermont. It’s her birthday next week. Her father, Stan, competed in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics in cross-country skiing, and her uncle, Everett, in cross-country skiing in the 1972 Games. What more could you want?
When she missed the one shot, Susan Dunklee said, no big deal: “One, I can still be there.”
The others: “Four, not so much.”
She summed up late Saturday night: “We had very big dreams coming here, especially after worlds. It’s a bummer.”