SOCHI, Russia (February 13, 2014) – Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) recorded the best individual finish in U.S. Olympic biathlon history by placing eighth in the men's individual 20-kilometer event at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center in Sochi's Mountain Cluster Thursday evening.
Powered by only one missed shot out of 20, Bailey covered the course in 50:57.4, only 1:25.7 off the winning pace of gold medalist Martin Fourcade of France, who posted a time of 49:31.7/+1. The silver medal went to Germany's Erik Lesser in 49:43.9/+0, while Evgeniy Garanichev of Russia won the bronze in 50:06.2/+1.
Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) completed the course in 54:21.2/+4 good for 44th place, while Russell Currier (Stockholm, Maine) was 50th with a 55:07.5/+4 and Leif Nordgren (Marine on St. Croix, Minn.) was 83rd with a 58:47.6/+6. Extended results from the 20k individual can be found here.
In Vancouver 2010, Jeremy Teela (Heber City, Utah) had the best U.S. finish - ninth in 10k sprint. Previously, Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, Alaska) posted a 10th in the 20k individual in the 2006 Turin Olympic Games.
“I feel a lot better than I did the last two races,” said Bailey. “I was the most disappointed that I’ve ever been after the pursuit. I knew I could be better than that. Fortunately, I have a group of coaches, trainers and support that I think are the best in the world. They really helped me wake up the next day and realize that those were only two races out of hundreds of races that I’ve done. I’ve spent the last two days working on skills and getting back to the fundamentals that we’ve worked on for the last 20 years.
"I was just so down. You spend your whole life working for something then see it fall apart in a matter of 35 minutes. It can really beat you down if you don’t step back and gain some perspective. The first person I saw after my (pursuit) race was my mom. I think that was the first step to getting back mentally and understanding where I was, what this is all about, and what I’m here to do.
"It wasn’t until the fifth loop, when I witnessed the emotion of one of our staff members, that I knew it was a good race. I had a feeling it was a good race because you kind of know how you are doing on the course, and then hitting 19 of 20 you hope that’s good enough to do something.
"Today was the textbook definition of biathlon. One day you can be at the bottom and the other day you can be at the top, which for me was in a matter of 72 hours,” Bailey added.
Temperatures climbed to 55 degrees on the course Thursday afternoon making for unique conditions.
“I’ve been in every Olympics since 1992 and we’ve never had temperatures like this for a competition,” said US Biathlon CEO Max Cobb.
Bailey said he worked with his coaches to adjust his climbing technique for today’s conditions. “The hills when they are so warm like this, they get so deep,” he explained. “We’ve trained a lot on World Cup conditions and it’s a different style. You have to distribute the power and change the way you ski in these slower, deeper conditions. I thought about that a lot in today’s race and tried to adjust my technique.”
Olympic competition resumes at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center tomorrow with the women’s 15k individual. Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO), Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, VT), Susan Dunklee (Barton, VT) and Sara Studebaker (Boise, ID) will start for Team USA. Tune in and watch live at 9am (ET) here.