Ostersund, Sweden, August 24. Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) gave the US Biathlon Team a spot on the podium with a third place finish in the Men’s 12.4K roller ski cross-country race this afternoon.
Sweden’s David Eckholm, the last starter edged Bailey for second place by 1.7 seconds. Mattias Nilsson of Sweden won the competition in 26:04.2, with Eckholm 16.9 seconds back and Bailey 18.6 seconds back.
For the past two weeks, the US Biathlon team has been training in Sweden, under almost perfect conditions. Cool weather, with temperatures hovering around 22 degrees Celsius and sunny to partly cloudy skies have been the norm. As the competitors arrived for the cross-country rollerski races in the late afternoon, the trend continued. Periodically a few puffy clouds crossed the horizon, blocking the strong late summer sun, but generally it seemed like a perfect mid-fall day, even though the calendar says it is August. “This could be our last day of summer,” was a comment overheard on Thursday, reminding everyone that these competitions offer a good preview for the upcoming winter biathlon season.
As Coach Per Nilsson commented earlier in the week, the competitions are, “an important part of our training plan.” Accordingly, the team put in two hours of training this morning, with a series of shooting drills, followed by more shooting and classic skiing. After the mornings training, the US team refueled with enormous helpings of whole-wheat pasta and bread for lunch, followed by several hours of rest.
Today’s training did not seem to affect Bailey’s performance, but the lunch obviously helped him refill his stores of energy. He skied very aggressively for each of the 3.1K loops. He had started 30 seconds behind Mattias Simmen of Switzerland, a very strong skier. Bailey stayed focused on and gained on the Swiss athlete with each loop, until erasing the 30-second start gap in the final loop. The two crossed the finish line a mere six-tenths of a second apart.
Bailey talked about his race as he leaned on his ski poles, in the diminishing light of the day. “I was trying a lot of new technique today, especially the low skating technique and it felt good. The course was fun, but with these roller skis, (all competitors used the same model provided by the organizers) it was super fast, faster than we have been training. I know I worked hard, because I can taste the lactic acid in my mouth right now.”
Coach Per Nilsson was smiling as he talked about Bailey’s third place. “This is really good for Lowell as he has put in a lot of hard work so far this year.” Bailey’s teammates Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) and Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) placed 10th and 17th, 1:48.2 and 2:27.8 back.
In the earlier Women’s 7.8K, Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO) finished eighth, 2:02.9 behind Sofia Domeij of Sweden. Domeij completed the three tours of the 2.6K loop in 19:02.9, just 1.4 seconds ahead of her teammate and Olympic Biathlon Gold Medalist Anna Carin Olofsson. Third went to Ostersund’s Maria Graftnings, 30.1 seconds back. After the race, Barnes commented, “It was hard out there, but I expected it, especially when you are in the middle of a big training block. Still, I would have felt better with a rifle on my back.”
Tracy Barnes and Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) did not start today, but both will compete in the biathlon races on Saturday and Sunday.
The United States Biathlon Association is the National Governing Body for the sport of biathlon in the United States as recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Biathlon Union. The US Biathlon Association supports the US Biathlon Team and development of the sport on all levels within the United States.
TD Banknorth is the title sponsor of the US Biathlon Team. Lapua, adidas®, the Hilton Family of Hotels and Exel Ski Poles are supporting sponsors of the US Biathlon Team.