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Bailey takes final shot at Olympic podium

February 9, 2018
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer (lreuter@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Lowell Bailey has shown he can rise to the occasion in the world's biggest races against the best biathletes on the planet.

The 36-year-old, who was born in North Carolina and grew up in Old Forge and Lake Placid, proved that in Austria last winter when he shocked the European-dominated sport by becoming the first American to ever claim gold in the International Biathlon Union World Championships.

If the longtime member of the United States National Team can come up with a similar effort later this month in his fourth and final Olympic appearance, Bailey could very well turn the biathlon world upside down again while bidding farewell to a competitive career that saw him emerge as possibly one of the most successful biathletes to ever wear the red, white and blue.

Article Photos

Lake Placid resident Lowell Bailey shoots during last year’s 20-kilometer individual race at the world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria. He won the gold medal in the event to become the first American biathlete to win a worlds title.
AP photo — Alexey Filippov/Sputnik

Although the 22-year veteran in the sport of biathlon has had a handful of top-10 results on the World Cup circuit prior to last season, he seemingly came out of nowhere during his historic victory on Feb. 16, 2017, when he topped the field in Holchfilzen, Austria, in the 20-kilometer individual race. Suddenly, an American was on top of the heap in a sport where Europe's elite biathletes are as well known in their countries as NFL stars are on this side of the Atlantic.

Yet Bailey's performance in that race, which saw him turn in a perfect 20-for-20 effort at the shooting range, was no fluke. Along with his historic first-place finish, he also skied and shot his way to a fourth-place and two sixth-place results in the other three races in which he competed at Worlds.

Those results are not the only reason Bailey can enter the Olympics with a rosy outlook. He's already found success at the same Pyeongchang venue where he will race. After last year's world championships ended, he headed to South Korea for another stop on the World Cup tour during the first week in March. In the 10K sprint held on March 3, Bailey grabbed a silver, and followed with a ninth-place result the next day in the 12.5K pursuit.

Bailey and fellow Adirondacker Tim Burke, a longtime friend and training partner, have been the faces of U.S. men's biathlon team for the past two decades, and the duo has geared this season to be at their peak for Pyeongchang. Instead of heading back home to the North Country for the holiday break, they opted to remain in Europe to continue training.

During their holiday break, Burke also spent time with his wife, retired German biathlon legend Andrea Henkel, while Bailey enjoyed his downtime with his wife Erika and their 1-year-old daughter Ophelia. That extra training may pay off, as evidenced by some consistent results in World Cup races leading up the Olympics. On Jan. 5, Burke finished fourth in a 10K sprint race in Oberhof, Germany, which was his best result in four years.

In his final tuneup race in the European Championships on Jan. 28, Bailey joined U.S. teammate Susan Dunklee to win a relay bronze medal.

Despite being on the top of the biathlon world at times in their careers, Bailey and Burke have had one major accomplishment elude them during the many years that they've dedicated their lives to the sport. Neither athlete has stood on the Olympic podium.

Bailey has come the closest. At the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Bailey grabbed an eighth-place finish in the 20K individual race - the best Olympic result ever for a U.S. male biathlete.

This fourth trip to the Winter Olympics could also end their competitive careers. Burke has said he isn't sure if he will retire after this season. Bailey, who previously planned to retire in 2016, instead agreed to finish this Olympic season before moving to Montana to run a new biathlon center there.

 
 

 

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