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Going for the Gold: Lowell Bailey


Tue, Sep  29, 2009 - By Christie Succop, US Biathlon Association

Lowell Bailey competes in the men's biathlon 20-kilometer individual final at the Torino Games in 2006.  (Photo: Sandra Behne/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Lowell Bailey competes in the men's biathlon 20-kilometer individual final at the Torino Games in 2006. (Photo: Sandra Behne/Bongarts/Getty Images)
The "Going for the Gold" series kicked off our One-Year-Countdown to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. We will feature a different 2010 U.S. Olympic or Paralympic hopeful each week.

It is difficult enough to be able to ski fast and shoot accurately, but biathlete Lowell Bailey has been able to perform both at the Olympic level.

But those aren’t the only talents that this Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games hopeful possesses. The 28-year-old from Lake Placid, N.Y., is also a talented musician, and even though he is focused on competing in the upcoming Winter Games, he makes sure to pack his guitar along with his skis and shooting gear.

Bailey picked up his first guitar at 7. When he was 10, he started playing the mandolin, which looks like a smaller version of a guitar but actually is not in the guitar musical instrument family.

Music always played a central role in his youth, but he tried to balance other interests as well, incorporating cross-country skiing, tennis and soccer into his schedule. By his junior year of high school, he decided to pursue skiing full time. The following year, 1999, he succeeded in making the Junior World Championship Biathlon Team.

When the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games rolled around, Bailey hoped to make the U.S. Olympic Team. Unfortunately, he placed fifth at the Olympic Trials, one spot away from making his Olympic debut.

The 6-foot athlete went to the University of Vermont, where he balanced training for the biathlon national team with competing for his school’s ski team. Later, he focused solely on skiing, and he collected three National Collegiate Athletic Association titles.

After graduating, he returned to biathlon. He qualified for the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, where he placed ninth in the 4x7.5-kilometer relay, 27th in the 20-kilometer event, 46th in the 10-kilometer sprint and 48th in the 12.5-kilometer pursuit.

Four years later, he has another shot at competing in the Winter Games. The international competition for biathlon is exceedingly tough, but Bailey set high standards for himself. Last season Bailey listed his goals as ranking in the top 40 in the overall World Cup, consistently placing in the top 30 at each of his events, and medaling next year at the Winter Games.

Lowell Bailey

And somehow, throughout all of his training, he made time to hone his musical talents as well.

The southpaw grew up in an instrument-playing family, and his father and one of his uncles are or were professional musicians at some point in their lives. Lowell played with his father, George Bailey, in The George Bailey Trio, and the band released its most recent album, “Gravity Dance,” in 2003.

Lowell still plays with the band when he’s home in Lake Placid, but his appearances with the threesome have dwindled since he began to travel more and more for biathlon.

Still, Bailey doesn’t leave home without his guitar. His practice sessions are held in whatever room he’s spending the night. Aside from his participation in his father’s band, he is working on his own solo act. He even composed and sings “Fire Them Down,” the song of the U.S. Biathlon Team, which is available to view on YouTube.

Bailey might be a long shot for a spot on the medal podium in Vancouver, but it is clear that this multitalented athlete has a bright future ahead of him.