February 12, 2017 (Hochfilzen, Austria) – American Lowell Bailey had fans on the edge of their seats as he left the final standing range in second after shooting clean to deliver yet another a stellar result claiming a career-best 6th in the men’s 12.5km Pursuit at the IBU Worlds.
The gold went to France’s Martin Fourcade who missed his final shot in standing yet cruised to a 22.8-second victory. Norway’s Johannes Thinges Bo overtook his compatriot Ole Einar Bjorndalen for the silver as the storied Bjorndalen settled for bronze.
“In the end I just didn’t have enough,” said Bailey who suffered one penalty. “It’s just so close and there are so many good guys. One more shot, ten more seconds…you know, I could keep going and going, but that’s the way it is.”
Canadian Christian Gow at 1:57.3 behind also missed a single shot in standing to move up from 32nd at the start to 23rd at the finish. “Starting today, I didn’t feel very good warming up…my legs just felt kind of dead…but then something changed on the range, and all of a sudden I just felt fine on my skis. I was pretty hurt, but I am really happy with the race,” he said at the finish.
Fourcade was all smiles. “I am pretty satisfied to be on the podium with Johannes, one of the greatest biathlon talents, and with Ole also one the greatest biathlon talents. Everyone is asking me when I will break Ole’s record, but I am sure that if I want to break one of his records he will have to stop racing,” he quipped.
Bailey started the day in fourth and shot clean in the first prone stage in second place, but was pursued by a hard-charging posse including Bjorndalen, Bo, Anev, Moravec, and Shipulin. But everyone was chasing Fourcade so the real battle was for silver and bronze.
While he wanted more, the 35-year-old punched his ticket to his fourth Olympic Winter Games by virtue of his top-six finish at Worlds becoming the first athlete of any sport to qualify for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team.
His fourth place in the sprint was Team USA’s best finish in the 10K sprint in world championships history, and the country’s third-best result in any event, behind silver medals won in 1987 and 2013.
Bailey hopes to use his final Games as an opportunity to win Team USA its first-ever biathlon medal in Olympic history.
“It’s a huge confidence boost,” he said of his performances this weekend. “The last two days have been the best world championship results of my career, and that gives me the confidence going forward with my training and my approach to PyeongChang to really attack the races there.”
Fellow American Tim Burke skied well but suffered three penalties as he moved up from 40th to 32nd at 2:45.4 back. For Canada Christian Gow’s older brother Scott had a tough day on the range missing seven shots to drop from 25th to 47th on the day at 3:56.0 back.
Lief Nordgren started 26th place to finish 49th after five misses on the range. Canadian Brendan Green also had five penalties and fell back from 38th to 52nd at 4:19.5 behind. Sean Doherty also had a tough time on the range with nine penalties dropping from 39th to 55th place.