Durango native and U.S. Olympian Lanny Barnes helped make biathlon history recently in Germany.
Barnes, a member of the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team, participated in one of biathlon's premier events, the Veltins Biathlon World Team Challenge, at the famed Schalke-Arena soccer stadium in western Germany.
Barnes and her ski partner, Jay Hakkinen of Alaska, became the first American biathlon team invited to the exclusive event.
Teams from Germany, Norway, France, Russia, Ukraine and the United States competed before an announced crowd of 51,000 spectators. There were 10 "pairs" teams in the three-stage contest.
In the first of three events, Barnes finished fourth among the women in the semifinals, and eventually placed sixth out of the 20 athletes in the shoot-out competition. She finished ahead of several male and female medalists from the 2006 Olympics.
In the second event, a mixed-relay sprint race, Barnes and Hakkinen finished seventh.
In the final event, a mass-start pursuit race, the American duo finished ninth.
For Barnes, a soccer fan, the competition offered a unique opportunity.
"It was just fantastic to start in a soccer stadium of that size," Barnes told the media representative for USA Biathlon.
"I always wanted to go to a German soccer game, but to be able to compete in a biathlon race in one of those big stadiums ... that is just like a dream," she said. "I was really excited to be able to race (in the Schalke-Arena)," said Hakkinen, of Kasilof, Alaska.
"As a biathlete you always hear how amazing it is to start in such a crowded arena. They were right. It was nothing ... but exciting," Hakkinen said.
Barnes said the scene was a particular challenge in the shooting phase of the competition.
"We had to get used to the atmosphere. It was so loud and such an amazing ambience. It took us a while to retrieve our usually good shooting," Barnes said.
Barnes and her twin sister, Tracy Barnes, and other members of the U.S. National Biathlon Team will continue on the World Cup circuit next week in Oberhof, Germany.
The Barnes twins are the daughters of the Thad and Deb Barnes of Durango.
For more on the Biathlon World Team Challenge, including photos from the event, visit the Web sites www.biathlon.
teamusa.org or www.biathlon-aufschalke.de.