Pyeong Chang, Korea, February 29. Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) after finishing 29th in the Sprint on Wednesday jumped to a World Cup personal best 11th place finish today.
Bailey made the big jump with a one-penalty performance on the shooting range, to finish 1:07.7 behind Michael Greis of Germany. Greis had three penalties in his 32:49.56 victory. The tope three men were closely bunched together with two Norwegians Halvard Hanevold and Alexander Os just behind Greis, 12.4 and 17 seconds, respectively. Hanevold had three penalties, while Os had four. At the post-race press conference, Hanevold commented on the close loss. “I am happy about second place, but I’m also a bit disappointed because I was leading the race for quite a while.”
While Greis and the Norwegians were battling for the podium, Bailey was having the race of his career. Starting 1:47 back, he cleaned both of the critical prone stages. With this excellent shooting, he moved up to 18th position then up to 13th after the second prone stage. Bailey’s only penalty of the day, in the first standing stage, did not slow him down, as he moved into 12th position. With clean shooting in the final standing stage, he moved to a personal-best 11th place at the finish, just 11.9 seconds from eighth place! His previous best had been 18th place in the Sprint at Hochfilzen in 2006. Bailey was one of only three athletes in the field of 60 with a single penalty, as no one shot clean today.
Regarding the final shooting stage, he commented, “I just went for it. It was all or nothing. I did not want to finish this race after being so high up (at that point), knowing that I did not take the full risk. I felt really confident in my shooting today and new that I would have a good chance to move up.”
At the finish line, Bailey who had shown a lot of improvement in his training for this season, but with limited success to this point, seemed vindicated, “This is such a huge relief for me. All of the work suddenly paid off. I put a lot work and effort into shooting over the summer. That was the key today. A result like this on this course gives me a lot of confidence for the World Championships here next year.”
US Biathlon High Performance Director Bernd Eisenbichler reaffirmed Bailey’s statement and praised his effort, “Lowell had a world-class race today. It is so nice to see him up there. He worked very hard and professionally over last summer and today he got the receipt for that. He showed that he could race with the best in the relays at Ruhpolding and Ostersund. Now he showed it in an individual race; that is great!”
While Bailey was having a big race today, Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) and Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) were also moving up, but not in such a dramatic manner. Burke who suffered from both the wind and a fall in the Sprint moved from 48th at the start to finish 38th, with four penalties, 3:53.7 back. Teela started 57th and finished 49th, with seven penalties, 7:01.8 back.