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Burke keeps the faith for biathlon breakthrough

WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Tim Burke is 0-for-3 in his quest to put America on the Olympic biathlon podium for the first time.

His last real chance in Vancouver comes Sunday in the men's 15-kilometer mass start. Last week, he said he didn't have a chance in the mass start because he wasn't skiing well enough. After finishing 45th in the 20K individual race Tuesday, he promised a better showing.

"I am a man who has nothing to lose now so I will go all in," Burke said. "I take whatever risk it takes to get a medal there."

The Americans aren't medal threats in the final race, the relay.

So unless Burke delivers Sunday, the U.S. biathletes will head to Sochi, Russia, in four years still trying to end their drought in the European sport that combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship.

Burke, of Paul Smiths, N.Y., is the first U.S. biathlete to wear the yellow bib as the overall World Cup leader, and was hailed as America's best hope for a breakthrough at Vancouver. Even Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the most decorated biathlete in Winter Games history, predicted a medal for Burke, who has three top-three finishes on the World Cup circuit this season.

But Burke was done in by a mid-race snowstorm in the first race, the 10K sprint. That proved a double-whammy because the start times for the 12.5K pursuit were based on results from that first race. He finished in 47th in the first race and 46th in the second.

He called the sprint the "most unfair" race he had ever been a part of, and he hard a hard time getting over it.

In the 20K, he finished five minutes behind the winner, Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen, after missing five of 20 targets. With each miss resulting in one minute being added to his finishing time, Burke would have needed a clean shoot to contend, something only two of the 88 competitors accomplished, including bronze medalist Sergey Novikov of Belarus.

"I probably went into the Olympics with expectations that were simply too high," Burke said. "And after the sprint, I was just so frustrated. It was quite hard to put that behind me.

"And maybe I didn't really manage it because my shooting (Tuesday) was way below my average 85 percent of the season so far," Burke said. "But at least I felt back in shape at the track. Every lap went better so with that in mind, I am really motivated for the mass start."

Burke's girlfriend, German biathlete Andrea Henkel, hasn't done as well at these Winter Games as she expected to, either. After winning two golds in Salt Lake City and a silver medal in Turin, Henkel finished 27th in the sprint, 10th in the pursuit — where she's the World Cup leader — and sixth in the individual race.