“It’s cold up North!” That’s what they say about the North of England which means that it is a great place to acclimatise to winter sports! Lucky for Great Britain then that the frozen wastes of South Shields have helped their top female biathlete get to where she is now. No need to go looking for cold weather in Europe, Amanda Lightfoot can get plenty of it at home!
Amanda was born on the 30th of January 1987 and raised in South Shields which is more famous for football and running than for biathlon!(Shocking I know!). In fact biathlon is not a well-known sport at all in Great Britain so how did Amanda end up becoming a biathlete? Well like many others she discovered the sport after she joined the army. Actually she only learned to ski at age 19 and considering most biathletes can ski when they are children she has had a lot of catching up to do.
With only 3 months of biathlon training she won the novice prize in the British Championships and earned the chance to spend a year training in the Development Squad. In 2007 she was selected for the European Cup and after only 3 races qualified for the Women’s Relay team to compete on the World Cup.
After a lot of hard work and gaining valuable experience along the way she got her best ever result in the World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk in 2011. She came 34th in the Individual race which is an amazing result for someone who had only been doing biathlon for 5 years! Most biathletes have been training and competing since childhood especially in places like Norway and Russia. This led Amanda to be named British Biathlete of the Year in 2011. She is also the first GB biathlete to score World Cup points since 1992 and is only the second female biathlete from her country to compete in an Olympic Games following Emma Fowler in 2006.
Her best result on the World Cup was last year’s 46th place in the Oberhof Pursuit. That beat her previous best which was 47th in the Oberhof Sprint from the day before! Strangely enough her top results have all been achieved at World Championships. The best in Khanty and then in Ruhpolding where she came 36th in the Sprint and 43rd in the Pursuit in 2012.This bodes well of course for this season and the up coming World Championships in Finland. As someone who has served in Iraq the Kontiolahti wall will hold no fear for Amanda – just exhaustion!
Like many British biathletes she has had to base herself abroad so that she can have the use of quality training facilities and Amanda chose Lillehammer in Norway. She has even been learning the language over the summer which should be pretty easy for her because if you can speak “Geordie” then Norwegian should be a breeze!
It’s difficult to become a successful biathlete if you come from Great Britain. There are problems with funding and facilities and also snow! Amanda is a tough girl though and she needs to be to do what she does. This year she will be hoping to clinch a first Top 30 position and grab some more World Cup points. A good showing at the World Championships would also be a good confidence boost.
There are some young British ladies coming through, like Sophie Hopkins and Holly Rees-Lay, who would like to be to be professional biathletes one day. They should be inspired by Amanda and can learn a lot from her remarkable progress. So keep an eye out for Amanda this season and watch her progress carefully. British biathlon needs some good results and I am sure she is the one who can provide them. She has the skills required to be in the TOP 40 more often and coupled with her determination and motivation she will get there. She also has something the others don’t have – the gift of stealth! They don’t know she is coming because she has such a Light Foot across the Snow!
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