Not only is Lowell Bailey one of the top biathletes in the world, he’s a TRCP member!
If you’ve never seen a biathlon race, be sure to tune in to the Olympics. The sport is a combination of precision target shooting and long-distance Nordic skiing (while carrying your rifle). Americans have never medaled in this event. But this year, the team is stacked and ready to go.
We heard Lowell grew up in the Adirondacks, a conservation (and fly fishing) haven. So we chatted with him to learn more about the sport and talked about everything from custom rifles to fly fishing and even T.R.!
TRCP: Biathlon is not a sport you hear a lot about. How did you get involved with it?
Lowell: I’ve cross country skied my whole life and began racing probably around 5 years old. When I was 13 or so I was asked to a talent ID camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Well, you put a .22 in the hands of a 13 year old kid, and I fell in love with the sport right away.
TRCP: What do you like most about biathlon?
Lowell: Biathlon is unique because you have two entirely different sports that couldn’t be farther away from each other, and you have to figure out a way to make both of those sports work together. To have a good biathlon race you have shoot well and ski fast, and the pursuit of doing those two things is extremely challenging and extremely motivating.
TRCP: How does the shooting aspect of a biathlon race work?
Lowell: The shooting in biathlon is different from other competitive shooting sports. Because you’re racing, you’re always under the clock. A typical shooting stage lasts around 20-25 seconds. In that time you ski into the range, take your rifle off your back and get into position, take five shots and put your rifle back on. That all happens in 20-25 seconds.
TRCP: Wow. So, what’s the distance and size of the targets?
Lowell: There are two different positions in biathlon: prone, which is lying down, and standing. Prone position you’re shooting at a target roughly the size of an Oreo cookie from 50 meters. The standing target is a little bigger, roughly the size of a CD, because the standing position is less stable than the prone position.
TRCP: Here at the TRCP, we are a bunch of gun geeks. Can you give a rundown of what you’re shooting?
Lowell: We shoot .22 caliber long rifles with iron sights, no scopes or anything like that. The rifles that 95 percent of the World Cup field uses are made by Anschutz, in Germany. They’re highly precise, accurate rifles. They weigh roughly seven pounds, and we wear the rifles on our back during the entire race. Each athlete’s rifle has a customized stock, made of wood or carbon fiber, that’s made to fit that athlete’s body type and shooting preferences.
TRCP: We’ve been told you are an avid fly fisherman. How did you get into fishing?
Lowell: Well, I grew in the Adirondack Park, and as you may know, the Adirondacks has some of the best fishing in the country due to the fact that it protected as a state park. My parents always encouraged my sister and me to be outdoors, and fishing was something we just did for as long as I can remember. At some point I moved from spin casting to fly fishing, and now I do both. I’m lucky to live in Lake Placid where I can fish the AuSable River, which is a great trout stream.
TRCP: Do you ever get to go fishing while you’re on the road for competition or training?
Lowell: I do actually. I’ve fished a few times on the Traun River in Germany for rainbows and brown trout. Rudi Heger is a world renowned fishing guide out of southern Germany, and he’s also a big biathlon fan, so he’s taken me and some of my teammates out on a few different fishing excursions that were pretty amazing.
Rudi actually set up a biathlon/fly fishing competition, for a promotional video and just because it was funny. There were three athletes, and we skied with fly rods on our back up to the edge of this private pond that’s just chock full of rainbows. We had to quickly assemble our rods and the first person to catch a fish was the winner. It’s all on video somewhere…(It didn’t take us long to find this video…check it out here!)
TRCP: How did growing up in the Adirondacks shape your views on conservation?
Lowell: I think that the Adirondacks is one of the more unique areas in the country because you have private land ownership within a state park, so development and the way you are allowed to use the land is highly regulated by the Adirondack Park Agency. As a result, we have this robust tourist industry that drives the local economy in Lake Placid and the surrounding areas, and it’s all because of conservation. We have mountains for people to hike in; we have lakes for people to fish on; the recreational possibilities in Lake Placid and the greater Tri-Lakes Region are really endless.
TRCP: Your sister leaked to us that you use a T.R. quote as your pre-race mantra. Which one?
That’s true. The quote is “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” I use that quote almost daily and definitely every time I go into competition. On the World Cup circuit, there are typically 25,000 to 35,000 spectators in the stands as well as media, coaches, other athletes. It’s a very distracting environment, and in order to maintain my
focus I repeat that quote in my head while I’m warming up. It reminds me to stay focused on things I can control, and the things that I can’t control, they’ll be what they will be. The only thing that I can do at that given time, on that given day, is focus on the elements that I can control.
TRCP: Very cool. Lowell, we really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. And we wish you the very best in Sochi.
Lowell: Thanks. I’m psyched the TRCP thought of me. I think what you guys do is awesome.
Follow in Lowell’s footsteps and become a TRCP member.
The first biathlon race of the Sochi Olympics will occur Saturday, Feb. 8. For the full schedule of biathlon events and to learn more about Lowell and the U.S. team, visit the Olympic biathlon website.