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Who is... Lowell Bailey?

US biathlete Lowell Bailey poses with his rifle and skis in studio
NBCUniversal

Who is... Lowell Bailey?

Get to know the man who became the first U.S. athlete to win a world championship title in biathlon.

Lowell Bailey was the first U.S. athlete to punch their ticket to PyeongChang when he won gold at the 2017 IBU World Championships, effectively qualify himself for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team. At the same event, Bailey became the first biathlon world champion for the U.S., a program which still finds themselves searching for their first Olympic medalist.

Biathlon beginnings
Lowell Bailey grew up in Lake Placid, NY, and area rich with Olympic history. His childhood was filled with hours of winter sport activities, including cross-country ski racing. While on the trails, the young Bailey would notice the biathletes training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and one day when he was 14 he offered a chance to shoot his first biathlon rifle. 

When he missed out on making the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team headed for Salt Lake City, Utah, Bailey decided to take a three-year break from biathlon to attend the University of Vermont, where he competed collegiately in cross-country skiing. He made his biathlon comeback in 2005, just in time to qualify for his first Olympic team in 2006.

Major competitions/medals
Lowell Bailey has won five medals over 12 seasons on the World Cup. The most impressive of these accolades came on February 16, 2017, when Bailey became the first U.S. biathlete to win a gold medal at a biathlon World Championship. 

In the men’s 20km individual event, Bailey hit every one of his targets, going a perfect 20-for-20 with the rifle. Upon exiting his final visit to the shooting range, Bailey was holding on to a slim lead – 6.4 seconds to be exact. As he crested one of his final climbs on his way to the finish that lead would slip to just 2.6 seconds. The fans – most of which were there to cheer for the European favorites – roared for the American as he came charging into the stadium. Bailey crossed the finish line, looked at the official timing clock, and after a moment, it hit him that he had won, beating the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Moravec by just 3.3 seconds.

Breakout moment
During the 2011-12 season, at 30, Bailey made a big jump in World Cup rankings. Although he was two years away from winning his first World Cup medal, Bailey shot and skied well enough to bag two top-five World Cup finishes, ending the season ranked 14th in the world overall (up from 41st the previous year).

In 2016-17, Bailey finished 8th in the world overall at the close of his World Championship winning season.

Top quotes
Lowell Bailey finds motivation in a quote which the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, included in his 1913 autobiography. In the starting gate Bailey often repeats the quote which Roosevelt attributes to a man named Squire Bill Widener that says, “Do what you can, with what you got, where you are.”

Olympic experience
Lowell Bailey put up the best Olympic finish of any U.S. biathlete in history when he came in 8th place in the 20km individual event at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. One of Bailey’s shots during his second visit to the range nicked the edge of the target, but did not register a hit. Had that target fallen, it’s a good bet we’d be referring to Bailey as the first U.S. biathlete to win an Olympic medal. 

Having made his Olympic debut at the 2006 Torino Olympics, PyeongChang marks the fourth appearance at the Games for Bailey. 

Outside biathlon
Bailey and his wife Erika welcomed their first daughter, Ophelia, in June 2016. Instead of separating for the lengthy World Cup season, the Bailey family flew to Europe together, and Ophelia was able to go to nearly all of her father’s 2016-17 season races. For Ophelia, the trip included being strapped to her mother’s chest in a baby carrier as Erika ran alongside Lowell screaming, “You’re winning! You’re winning! You’re winning!” as Lowell neared the finish of his eventual World Championship win in Hochfilzen, Austria.

Lowell is also a talented musician, playing both guitar and mandolin in more than one band in Lake Placid. When on tour for biathlon, he often packs a travel guitar and has been known to play for the world’s best biathletes as they all gather for a meal at the end of a day of competition.

Social media
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lowellcbailey81
Twitter: @Lowellcbailey
Instagram: @lowellcbailey

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