U.S. Olympic biathletes cross final finish line in unison
In an unlikely culmination, the two ended up skiing the last lap as major frontrunners, outpacing their next competition by more than 30 seconds. They rounded the final turn one in front of the other, then drew parallel. A simple fist bump followed by arms raised in triumph marked their simultaneous crossing of the finish line — their last as U.S. national biathletes. The two finished in 36 minutes, 23.3 seconds apiece.
They said they had not orchestrated their finish, but had decided they would simply race their best. That they turned out to be the winners was equal parts happy coincidence and the byproduct of training together for a decade and a half.
Burke, who lives in Lake Placid, New York, said the last lap amounted to a victory lap for the veterans, who have participated in every Winter Games since Torino, Italy, in 2006.
“I feel really lucky that that’s the way it got to end,” Burke said. “We just chatted the whole last loop. On the last climb we said, ‘Oh, the last climb of our racing career.’ It was a special moment.”
From his career, Burke said he has many moments to look back on fondly.
“And it doesn’t always have to do with the best results,” he said, though taking over the leader’s jersey on the 2010 World Cup tour was an undeniable highlight. “It has to do with the memories of being around great people and great friends; memories I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
He said he’s leaving the team in a good position, with strong athletes rising on both the women’s and men’s sides, and looks forward to spending more time with his family, after spending an average of seven months on the road every year for the past 14 years.
Bailey, also a resident of Lake Placid, said those training moments flooded his mind as the two made the last turn.
“We have been on the same team since we were 14 years old, and literally we’ve been doing intervals together like this since that point,” he said. “So it’s just crazy that it ended this way. You know, it ended the way it began.”
He and his wife plan to move to Montana, where they will help direct operations at the Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, which fields a biathlon and cross country team. He also anticipates becoming one of USA Biathlon’s biggest fans, and giving back to an athletic community that has given him so much — the 2017 individual world championship title among them.
“The high points of my career, I will always remember,” Bailey said. “But I’ll remember moments like this — the end of a race, the end of a career. And the way it went today, the way the targets fell, it ended with me and Tim skiing the last lap together. I mean, you can’t script that stuff.”