The Olympics were in full swing when biathlete Clare Egan, a native of Cape Elizabeth, saw her golden opportunity.

Years of practice have taught her to keep emotions in check, to calm a rapid heartbeat with deep breaths and to block out everything but her target.

“I felt like, I’ve trained all year for this moment,” Egan said. “I’m going in.”

Egan wasn’t talking about the women’s relay at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre, where for the first time all winter she shot a perfect 10 for 10 despite tricky winds and swirling snowflakes. That would come later in the PyeongChang Games.

No, Egan was describing the moment she spotted Ban Ki-moon, former secretary general of the United Nations, in the Olympic Village dining hall and approached the 73-year-old former diplomat, now chair of the International Olympic Committee’s Ethics Commission.

Politely, Egan introduced herself in Korean, which she had been studying for more than a year leading up to these Games. She told him what an honor it was to be in the Olympics.

“I don’t know if it was perfect,” Egan, 30, said Tuesday by phone from Helsinki, Finland, where she has a few days to decompress before resuming her World Cup biathlon season in Kontiolahti on March 9. “But I was just happy he understood what I was trying to say. It was a really cool experience.”

Next thing she knew, Egan was invited to the NBC studio to speak with daytime host Rebecca Lowe.

“That was fun,” Egan said. “I think it was just a slow day and they were looking to do a feel-good story.”

A few days later, Egan was featured in a New York Times story about learning stress management from biathletes. Last week, Egan watched from a training hill as, in the adjacent cross-country stadium, skier Jessie Diggins sprinted to gold.

Clare Egan’s immediate family journeyed to South Korea to see her compete. From left to right, brother Graham, father Tom, Clare, brother Guy and mother Hillary Egan hold the flag following Clare’s perfect shooting in the women’s relay.

“That was unforgettable,” said Egan, who had started her career as a Nordic skier before switching to biathlon and therefore feels a kinship with Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall.

Egan’s first – and she says her last – Olympics as an athlete turned out to be meaningful and memorable. Her parents, Tom and Hillary, were in Korea for three weeks. Her brothers, Graham and Guy, came for two weeks. A cousin and his family were there to watch, as was her boyfriend and his parents.

“What made it different from all my other racing is that it felt extremely collective,” Egan said. “The whole thing felt like it belonged to my family and my friends and my community and my country. That was pretty powerful.”

Egan’s adventure began behind a surgical mask, eating meals delivered to her room. She had been sick for a week in Germany and team officials tried to prevent germs from spreading. While the rest of the team went through processing and collected their Olympic gear before heading to PyeongChang, Egan followed a day behind, quarantined in an airport hotel.

She finally arrived in PyeongChang on a Tuesday and that night trained at Alpensia for the first time, still feeling a step behind her peers.

“I was totally healthy by the time I was racing (in Saturday’s 7.5-kilometer sprint),” she said. “But what I missed was doing the hard intervals, the last-minute tune-up sessions of hard intensity. Instead, I was just getting back into skiing.”

Three minutes into her opening race, Egan tumbled at the bottom of a steep hill. It had been years since she crashed, but somehow a ski slipped from beneath her in a tuck and suddenly, she found herself sprawled against a padded barricade while others continued to glide up a nearby incline.

“Luckily, I wasn’t hurt and my rifle wasn’t hurt,” she said, “which are the two things that can happen that are really bad when you crash.”

Egan scrambled up the hill and wound up hitting 4 of 5 targets in prone and 3 of 5 in standing to finish 61st. The top 60 finishers qualified for pursuit, two days later. Egan missed the 60th spot by 1.6 seconds. If not for the crash, she would have made it easily.

Clare Egan of Cape Elizabeth seized an opportunity to use her Korean with former Ban Ki Moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations, at a cafeteria in the Olympic Village. Egan told Moon in Korean, “It is an honor to be at the Olympics.”

Five days later, she placed 62nd in the 15k individual, which includes four shooting stages. She hit 10 targets in prone, but missed 4 of 10 in standing. All season long, she had shot between 70 and 85 percent (except for the time her rifle sling broke), and the Olympics continued that unspectacular trend.

“Extremely consistent,” she said. “But extremely mediocre.”

Teammate Joanne Reid, a fellow Olympics rookie, had a career day, placing 22nd after dropping 19 of 20 targets. That performance led team officials to include Reid in the mixed relay – possibly the best U.S. chance at a first Olympic biathlon medal – instead of Egan, along with veterans Susan Dunklee, Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke.

Egan handled the disappointing news with grace. She had opportunities to secure her relay spot and been unable to do so.

“I agreed with their decision in the sense that it was kind of a toss-up,” she said. “They know what they’re getting with me. I’ve been consistent but also mediocre, whereas here’s someone (in Reid) who just had the race of her life. Let’s maybe take a little bit of a risk on someone who might pop out a great result.”

Dunklee, Burke and Bailey each cleaned their 10 targets, needing a total of six extra bullets. Reid dropped all five in prone but only two in standing, even after using her three extra bullets, and the U.S. team dropped from contention to 18th, and eventually placed 15th.

In the women’s relay two days later, Dunklee again led off with a fast leg and Egan followed with 10-for-10 shooting, one of only three women in the field of 72 to shoot perfectly, despite the challenging conditions. Team USA was only 16 seconds off the lead when Egan tagged off to Reid, who dropped back only five more seconds in her leg, but anchor Emily Dreissigacker needed five extra bullets to clean her targets and crossed the line in 13th.

Had Egan been selected for the mixed relay and responded with a similar shooting performance, the U.S. might have earned its first Olympic biathlon medal. She doesn’t view it that way. She would have loved to compete in mixed, but is thrilled with her flawless relay leg.

“I had a perfect race at the Olympics,” she said. “You can’t hope for more than that.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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