The 2010 and 2014 Olympic biathlete, Lowell Bailey, has become the first member of Team USA to punch their ticket to PyeongChang after finishing fourth in the men’s sprint event at the 2017 IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria. It was Bailey’s best world championship finish ever, and sends the 35-years-old to his third consecutive Olympic Games after he nearly retired from the sport.
“It’s a huge confidence boost,” Bailey told TeamUSA.org. “The last two days have been the best world championship results of my career, and that gives me the confidence going forward with my training and my approach to PyeongChang to really attack the races there.”
Bailey was one of ten racers of a field of 103 to knock down all 10 targets, and crossed the finish line in the staggered start event in 23 minutes 57.9 seconds. That was good enough to put Bailey in second place behind biathlon great, France’s Martin Fourcade, while he waited for the rest of the field to complete the course. Two athletes with later starts, Germany’s Benedikt Doll and Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe would also shoot clean, and took over the top two spots, relegating Fourcade to third, and ultimately bumping Bailey off the medal stand. However, the fourth place finish by Bailey set him up nicely for the next day’s pursuit event, where the start order is determined by the sprint.
Setting off behind Doll, Boe and Fourcade in the pursuit, Bailey turned in a respectable sixth-place finish.
Biathlon is the only winter Olympic sport in which the United States has never won a medal. Team USA’s best finish was sixth place back in 1972 in Sapporo, Japan in the men’s relay event – an event Bailey has his eye on in PyeongChang as a chance to break the drought.
“I really think we could do it in the relay – although we haven’t had a chance to show it yet this season, we showed it last year when everyone was healthy and we were sixth in the world,” Bailey said. “To me, that relay would be the sweetest way to usher in the first-ever Olympic medal for the U.S.
“Having it be that relay team of guys I’ve known and trained with for years and years – I think we all want it so badly, we just have to put it together. That’s the type of stuff I’m excited for when I look toward next season and the Olympics in PyeongChang.”
Bailey’s finishes are another bright spot in a season that has shown some progress for U.S. Biathlon on the world cup circuit. On the women’s side, Susan Dunklee got off to a hot start this season with four top ten finishes, including one bronze medal in the sprint.