Just over 24 hours ago, I crossed the line in first place at World Championships in Austria. Just writing that statement seems surreal; and that is exactly what the last 24 hours have felt like. I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from fans across the world, sending congratulatory messages, reflections on where they were and what they were doing when the news flashed onto the video feed: Bailey… Gold Medal… by 3.3 second margin.
I will always remember the race itself, a long 20km race that took time to develop. I started with bib 100, nearly the last starter on the day. By the time I had started, Martin Fourcade, the undisputed favorite, had posted a formidable time and the race had been underway for almost an hour. I carried with me the knowledge that I had the capacity, with a perfect performance, to be on the podium, but I also knew how elusive that “perfect performance” can be. So I just repeated the Theodore Roosevelt quote that I often tell myself as I prepare for a race: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” To me, that represents the best chance at success… to go out and do what I’ve trained for; execute the gameplay I’ve created, and stay focus in the face of substantial distraction.
After four laps, I entered the last shooting having completed four loops, hit 15-of-15 targets, and with a ski time competitive with the leaders. This was the moment I had waited my whole life for. Five targets and four kilometers of skiing lay between me and a World Championship medal. I stayed focused. I didn’t get distracted. And I left the range in first place and a six second lead. By the top of the last climb, that lead was down to less than a second, and with my wife Erika screaming encouragement in my ear, I face the last few hills with the notion that, I needed to do this. I needed to make this happen. I had to make this happen.
3.3 seconds. That was the margin when I toed the line. That was the margin of victory. And that is a number I will remember for the rest of my life. The last 24 hours have been some of the most memorable of my life. Thank you to all of my family, friends, coaches, sponsors, and fans who have encouraged me every step of the way. It took more than two decades and hundreds of international race starts, but we finally did it!