After competing for just over two decades, in 2017, 35-year-old Lowell Bailey became the United States’ first ever world champion in biathlon.
Born in North Carolina, but raised in Lake Placid, NY, Lowell Bailey was surrounded by the memories of Olympics past as well as the hopefuls who practiced at the Olympic Training Facility located there. Growing up in Lake Placid, winter sports were unavoidable, and the rich history of two past Olympic Games compelled him to pursue his own Olympic dreams.
Gliding past Lake Placid’s biathlon training center as he worked on his cross-country skiing, Bailey was intrigued by the skiers who also toted rifles on their backs. He was handed his first biathlon rifle at 14.
PyeongChang stands as Bailey’s fourth trip to the Olympic Games. His highest individual finish at an Olympic Game came in 2014 where he finished 8th in the men’s 20km individual event in Sochi – the same event he would go on to win at the 2017 World Championships.
After 14 years of racing on the World Cup, three Olympic appearances and feeling like he had nothing left to prove to himself, Bailey was set to retire after the 2016 World Championships in Oslo. Just weeks ahead of his scheduled curtain call, Bailey received a message from a non-profit looking to create a state-of-the-art Nordic facility in the mountains of Montana, and they wanted Bailey to help plan for the venue’s future and be the face of their fundraising effort. The one thing he had to do was keep racing and try to qualify for one more Olympic Games. He agreed.
The following June, Bailey and his wife Erika welcomed their first daughter, Ophelia, and shortly after, the couple made the decision to take the whole family on tour for Lowell’s 2016-17 World Cup season.
Looking back, Bailey would say it was the decision to have Erika and Ophelia with him every step of the way that helped him achieve his world championship success in 2017, where he won gold in the 20km individual event – besting the second place finisher by only 3.3 seconds.
Getting to know Lowell Bailey
Finished dead last in his first ever race on skis, but won a lollipop. He was 5.
Played in a band lead by his father, The George Bailey Trio
Is one of only a few biathletes to shoot left-handed on the World Cup