BiathlonRacingBailey, Studebaker Lead US Biathlon, Gain FS Biathlete of the Year Honors

Avatar Topher SabotMay 6, 2011

FasterSkier Biathlete of the Year

Biathlete of the Year (men):

Lowell Bailey (USA/USBA) Bailey was one of several bright spots in a somewhat rocky year for the US men’s biathlon team. Coming off a run of several seasons where expectations continued to rise for the program, what with Tim Burke leading the overall World Cup for a time in 2010, Jeremy Teela reaching the World Cup podium in 2009, and a number of strong relay results, there were many reasons to be positive.

But with Burke struggling with undisclosed compartment syndrome and Teela unable to regain the form he showed the last few seasons, it was Bailey who stepped up in 2011 to lead the team.

Four of his top six career results came during the 2011 campaign, including a best ever ninth on home snow in Fort Kent. He also had three other top-16 results on the World Cup, and ended the season ranked 41st in the world, also a career-best.

Bailey scrambled for the World Championship relay that finished an impressive sixth, just ten seconds out of the medals – a race that was easily the highlight of the season for the men’s team.

Outside of the relay, Bailey did not have his best races at World Champs, but his top results throughout the season earn him the award.

Lowell Bailey racing at the World Cup in Maine.

Honorable Mention:

Leif Nordgren (USA/USBA) The 21-year-old Nordgren made the leap from potential to legitimate World Cup biathlete this year with a series of standout performances at the World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

Nordgren turned in results of 17, 21, and 26 in the three individual races he started, and anchored the US relay team to sixth.

Brendan Green (CAN) Green posted five of his top seven best World Cup results during the 2011 season, including a top mark of 14th in Oberhof, Germany.

All told he had five top-30 results and ended the season ranked 53rd.

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Biathlete of the Year (women):

Sara Studebaker (USA/USBA) Studebaker took a major step forward in 2011, leading the US women’s team, and consistently turning in strong performances.

All 12 of her top World Cup results came this past season. Her top finish, a 14th, came in the sprint on US soil in Presque Isle, Maine.

She had a total of 11 top-30 races and four top-20s. She also led the US at World Championships with a 17th in the 15km individual.

Studebaker also provided great excitement in the pursuit on the last weekend of World Cup racing, in Oslo, Norway. She sat eighth place after three stops in the range, and was within striking distance of the top five. While she struggled on the final shooting, missing three targets, she still finished a more than respectable 20th and gave a glimpse of a possible future at the top of the results sheet.

She finished the season ranked 34th in the world, the first time a US woman has cracked the top-60 since Rachel Steer placed 36th in 2005.

Along with teammates Laura Spector and Haley Johnson, Studebaker has helped elevate US women’s biathlon to a truly elite level. The men’s team has received most of the attention in recent years – rightly so given their results. But that has changed, and Studebaker is one of the driving forces behind the shift.

Sara Studebaker (USA) en route to tagging off in eighth place after the first leg of the World Championship relay. Photo: nordicfocus.com courtesy of USBA.

Honorable Mention:

Laura Spector (USA/USBA) In any other season over the past six years, Spector would have easily been the top US female biathlete. She placed in the top-30 five times, with a best finish of 19th.

Her World Cup rank of 53rd was second only to Studebaker among North American women.

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Previous Winners:

2010
Tim Burke (USA)
Zina Kocher (CAN)

2009
Tim Burke (USA)
Zina Kocher (CAN)

2008
Tim Burke (USA)
Caitlin Compton (USA)

FasterSkier Awards 2011:

Rookie of the Year
Breakthrough Skier of the Year
Collegiate Skier of the Year
Adaptive Skier of the Year
Continental Skier of the Year
Biathlete of the Year
Nordic Combined Skier of the Year
Performance of the Year (cross-country, biathlon, nordic combined)
Cross-Country Skier of the Year

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Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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