IBU World Championships (Hochfilzen, Austria): Men’s 20 k individual
Lowell Bailey became the first American biathlete to become a world champion on Thursday in the men’s 20-kilometer individual race at 2017 International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria.
Wearing lucky bib 100, Bailey started near the back of the field and cleaned four consecutive stages in the longest-format race on the circuit, then finished with the new best time of 48:07.4 minutes, 3.3 seconds faster than the Czech Republic’s Ondřej Moravec (who started 51st and also hit all 20 targets).
Bailey even beat out France’s Martin Fourcade, the pursuit champion who had previously won 10 World Cup races this season, by 21.2 seconds.
While he had come close to the podium in fourth in the sprint last Saturday, Feb. 11, Bailey’s best World Cup result was second in a 2014 World Cup sprint in Kontiolahti, Finland. His World Championships gold medal on Thursday topped that of his teammate, Tim Burke, who had taken a historic silver for the U.S. in the 20 k individual at 2013 World Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.
“This is a perfect day, absolutely,” Bailey told German broadcaster ARD after. “This is the most perfect day of my biathlon career. To shoot clean at World Championships … every single part of my race fit together today. I have so many people to thank for that. Years, decades of support, and people cheering me on for so long. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”
He was joined on the podium by his wife, Erika, and infant daughter, Ophelia. In the same interview with ARD, he credited Erika for supporting his decision to continue racing.
“I’m so thankful for the people who came to me and allowed me to continue my career,” he said. “The first one to think of is my wife Erika who supported me in my decision. We had our daughter Ophelia this summer, and of course this makes things much more interesting as a family. We had to be creative in our training this year, but it all worked out. So thankful for them, and grateful for everyone who has helped me so far.”
Also for the U.S., Leif Nordgren placed 23rd (+2:53.6) with two penalties for his best result of these championships, Burke was 36th (+4:14.4) with four misses, and Sean Doherty 58th (+6:04.4) with four penalties as well.
Macx Davies led Canada in 42nd (+4:25.2) with one miss, Scott Gow was four seconds behind in 43rd (+4:29.1) with two penalties, and Brendan Green finished 86th (+9:33.9) with five penalties. Christian Gow did not finish.
— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) February 16, 2017
— US Biathlon (@USBiathlon) February 16, 2017