FORT KENT, Maine - Lowell Bailey came back Sunday from a rookie mistake in the men's pursuit Saturday to finish the mass start with a career-best ninth-place finish on the final day of the Biathlon World Cup in northern Maine.
With a time of 40:27.2 and two penalties in four rounds of shooting, the Lake Placid athlete cracked the top 10 for the first time in his career.
"It's been a long road to get here," Bailey told reporters after the race at Fort Kent's 10th Mountain Lodge. "I'm on cloud nine."
Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid catches his breath after taking ninth in Sunday’s World Cup mass start in Fort Kent, Maine.
(Photo — Julia Bayly)
The two-time Olympian was anything but that on Saturday following a disastrous mistake on the firing range. After missing just one target from the two prone shooting stages, Bailey arrived in the range for the first standing position only to discover he was out of bullets - he had forgotten to load two clips.
By the time an official noticed Bailey signaling for the clips, he had lost 30 seconds and, he was certain, a spot in Sunday's mass start - a race limited to the top 30 skiers.
"It was a rookie mistake," he said.
Bailey was so convinced that he was out of the pack for the mass start that he told his mother to go ahead and start driving home to New York early Sunday morning.
Because of that, she was not in Fort Kent the hour before the race when Bailey got the official word that, thanks to other competitors scratching or dropping from the race for a variety of reasons, he was in.
"You can train and train and train but then there is that element of luck," Bailey said. "Yesterday I was unlucky (and) today I was lucky just to make it to the start."
Bailey knew he had a shot at cracking the top 10 after shooting clean in the final round in the range.
"If you hit 18 shots by that last stage anything can happen," he said. "If you're clean in that last stage crazy things can happen."
Bailey credited the cheers and support of the fans in the stands - he is a former member of the Maine Winter Sports Center team and trained in Fort Kent - for getting him through the final lap and across the finish line.
"Everyone here in the crowd deserves credit for that top 10 finish," he said "It took everything I had and I left it all out on the course today."
Bailey collapsed after crossing the finish line, but rose up to hugs, high-fives and congratulations from his teammates and coaches.
Bailey said he'd learned a lesson from Saturday.
"I spent the night thinking about it," Bailey said. "I checked those clips 10 times today."
Haley Johnson did not make it into the mass start on Sunday after finishing 43rd in the women's pursuit with a time of 39:10.8 and eight missed shots on the range.
Once again, weather conditions were a factor in the race for the athletes.
"It was an OK race for me today," Johnson said after the race Saturday. "Shooting was quite tough because it was really windy when I was at the range, so I had a bit of bad luck in prone. But two misses are too much to be up in the front."
Like Bailey, Johnson is a MWSC alum and could feel the crowd's support.
"It was especially nice to have family and friends out there
cheering for me," she said. "Since I lived here in Fort Kent for some time it almost feels like home and it's motivating to see that people want us to do good."
Tim Burke of Paul Smiths finished 49th in Saturday's pursuit with a time of 42:20.2.