Turns out the retirement talk was premature.

Cape Elizabeth native and 2018 Olympian Clare Egan entered the 2018-19 International Biathlon Union World Cup season with a clear mindset: Her fifth season skiing and shooting her rifle in competition with the top women in the world would be her last.

But a funny thing happened. All season she skied faster than ever. She repeatedly knocked on the door of a top-three finish. Then in the final race of the World Cup season on Sunday, Egan hit 19 of 20 targets and finished third in the 12.5-kilometer mass start in front of 20,000 fans in Oslo, Norway.

Egan had kicked in the door. She became just the seventh American to stand on the podium at a World Cup biathlon, and the first this season. In a phone interview earlier this week from the Newark International Airport – “Dammit, my rifle didn’t come. That’s not good” – Egan said she’s coming back for season No. 6.

“I feel a little weird saying this because I haven’t talked to my boyfriend yet, but yeah, I’m planning on doing it,” said Egan, 31. “I’m not at peace with this being my last race.”

A day later, and after the needed conversations, Egan was resolute.

“Yup. Very motivated for another season,” she said. “As long as I’m having fun, meeting my goals, and improving, I’d like to continue. Those are the three things I’ve evaluated every year since I started competing professionally and right now, all three are more true than ever.”

“I think it’s wonderful” that Egan will race next season, said Max Cobb, president and CEO of the U.S. Biathlon Association. “At the end of the day, all of us are working together to try to create moments like Clare had this year.”

Clare Egan shoots during a relay competition at the IBU World Biathlon Championships in Oestersund, Sweden, on March 16. Jessica Gow/TT via AP

Before taking a well-earned break and then plotting her recovery and training for 2019-20, Egan will compete in this weekend’s U.S. Biathlon National Championships in Jericho, Vermont, hosted by the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club.

Egan will compete in the 7.5-kilometer sprint on Friday, the 10K pursuit on Saturday and Sunday’s 5K mass start race.

Egan is coming off a breakthrough season. In her first four years on the World Cup circuit, her best showing in the season standings was 56th in 2016-17. She was 63rd in her Olympic year. This season she finished 18th in World Cup points. She recorded the eight best finishes of her career, including three top-10s.

“Overall, I skied a lot faster this winter and I did so throughout the season,” Egan said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is at the first race of the season I had the sixth fastest course time. My ski time was ranked in the last sprint of the season and it was the fourth fastest, so I was consistent over the course of the entire season as one of the top skiers, and when you do that you have a chance in every race.

“Biathlon is more volatile than most sports because of the shooting component. But if you ski fast then you have a chance of a good result. And I think my shooting was better as well.”

Both Egan and Cobb said that shooting a final round with a medal in the balance creates a different, more intense sense of pressure for a biathlete.

“Until the medal is on the line, you don’t really know what that feeling is,” Cobb said. “And for Clare, in the course of one season, to experience that feeling of being one good shooting stage away from being on the podium and then actually doing it in her last race of the season is quite an accomplishment.”

Clare Egan took third place in the IBU World Cup biathlon 12.5-kilometer mass start competition in Oslo on Sunday. Afterward, she said, “I’m not at peace with this being my last race.” Terje Bendiksby/NTB scanpix via AP

This weekend, the pressure is off, Egan said. Winning is not the focus at the U.S. championships. Rather, it’s being a good representative of the team.

“This is more of an opportunity to practice and do my thing one more time and have good competition to race against other athletes who don’t get a chance to race against our national team,” Egan said.

Egan said she remembers the thrill of being able to compete against World Cup athletes when she was in the development stage of her career.

Now she’s the World Cup athlete with a podium finish on her resume. That it came in Oslo is icing on the cake.

“It was cool to finish off strong in the heart of Nordic sport,” Egan said. “I was so close so many times this season. There were five, six, maybe more races where if I had hit just one more target I would have landed on the podium. Sunday was the last day of the season and I just said, ‘I have to do it today, it’s my last chance.'”

Until next season.

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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