Biathlon beginnings: Lowell Bailey
American Lowell Bailey made his Olympic debut in 2006 and is preparing to make his third trip to the Games in Sochi as the U.S. He recalls what drew him to become a biathlete.
How did you get your start in biathlon?
Biathlon for me started really when I moved to Lake Placid when I was 10 years old. Before that I had been a Nordic skier. My family lived about two hours outside of Lake Placid, but then when I moved to Lake Placid I was training on the 1980 Olympic venue. I could see what a biathlon arena looks like and actually see people, athletes doing biathlon. That's where I first kind of understood what the sport was all about. A few years later, I was asked to a recruitment talent ID camp for juniors. At that point, once they put the rifle in my hand and I really got to experience what this sport's all about and how cross-country skiing and shooting kind of go hand in hand, that was all it took. I don't think I ever looked back from there.
Embedded video_content_type: American Lowell Bailey rocking out on the guitar
Lake Placid is a city of Olympic sports. How did biathlon win out amongst all those different options?
As a kid growing up in Lake Placid just surrounded by that Olympic heritage, you try everything. I mean, I tried ski jumping, Nordic combined, alpine skiing, luge, and bobsled. You get a chance as a kid to really try everything, and the Olympic development agency there does a great job of allowing kids to get on the venues and try these sports. That's a big reason why there are so many Olympians from the Lake Placid area. But I think biathlon for me was just a matter of having been a cross-country skier and this added a whole other element to my training. And it was just fun. What 15 year old kid doesn't like skiing around the woods and shooting at things?
If biathlon can have that type of draw, can you explain how is it that it is the last remaining sport that the United States has failed to win an Olympic medal in?
Biathlon is one of the most competitive international sports, and a lot of people don't know that because in the U.S. it has a very low profile. Not a lot of people know about it. But in Germany, Norway, a lot of places in Russia, it's the number one winter sport. And it's extremely competitive. So you have that and the fact that it's also very volatile. In a lot of other sports, you might have a handful of people that are the predictable winners. In biathlon, I think last year we had 30 different guys that were on the podium. On any given day you could have any number of people winning, so it is difficult to step onto the podium. That being said, we've had over the last four years some really, really amazing improvements from all levels of the team. Our relay teams had some great success. I've had the chance to step on the podium so the chance is there. I've been really close. It's always about just keeping the focus and pushing forward and moving forward. The opportunity is right there.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Lowell Bailey
To your point about biathlon not being well known in the U.S., what's cool about biathlon that most people don't know?
Biathlon just combines two fairly different sports, but it does it in a way that is very graceful when you see it done. It seems that when you hear about biathlon without having seen an event I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, man, that's weird.’ But to me it seems absolutely natural. And when you watch it and you see the excitement and appreciation that the European fans have, it does seem natural. It builds tensions. There's so much drama in the sport because of the shooting, and it can change the whole cross-country side of the sport. So you have a race within a race. I just think it's one of the most challenging sports. From a spectator standpoint, I think it's also one of the most enjoyable sports to watch.