Tag Archives: British biathlon championships

Holly Rees-Lay: The Interview!

Holly Rees-Lay is a young British biathlete who is hoping to make it on to the IBU Cup this season. The 21-year-old from Oxfordshire competed on the Junior World Cup last season and achieved a top result of 60th in the Lenzerheide Individual. She currently combines biathlon with her studies at Edinburgh University. Even though she only started skiing aged 18 she has already been successful at the British World Championships in Ruhpolding. She also competes in rifle shooting.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyyRL
Like her Facebook Page: Holly Rees-Lay- Rifle Shooter/ Biathlete

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

I’ve been watching biathlon on TV with my mum from when I was very small and had always wanted to try it, and my family are all keen target rifle shooters (both my parents have shot for England, and my mum has shot for Great Britain). I wasn’t particularly interested in shooting until I was about 11 when mum convinced me that if I was going to be a biathlete I’d have to learn to shoot! (Not that she thought there was any chance I would ever go skiing or take up biathlon, she just wanted to trick me into learning to shoot). From there I improved fairly quickly and shot for the GB junior squad for the first time in Germany when I was 13, and I went on to compete all over the world with my last competition being the World University Games in Gwangju which turned out to be one of my best matches.

When I was 17, a small roller ski club started in a car park 35 minutes away, so I dragged my mum along with me, mostly because I really needed to lose weight and I didn’t want to run! I started doing roller ski races, although it took 2 races before I didn’t come last… and being super competitive I got completely hooked and knew I had to improve to try and win. I was lucky enough to get involved with the Cairngorm biathlon club when I was 18 and meet Mike Dixon, who persuaded me to go to the British Biathlon Championships in 2015. Despite having only had a week on snow beforehand and having never skied with a rifle before the first race I won 2 of the 3 youth races, at which point I decided to give it a more serious go!

How do you assess last season? You raced in the Junior World Cup. What was that like?

Last season was a really steep learning curve for me. Having only ever raced at British Championships I had no idea how I would perform against anyone else, but I was quite worried that I would be coming last in every race. Ultimately my only goal was to learn as much as I could, enjoy it, race my own races and see what happened. I found that my shooting is definitely competitive, even though I had expected myself to shoot a lot better, but my ski speed needs a lot of work, which I guess isn’t surprising seeing as I’m still really new to it. It was an amazing experience to see first hand how fast the top girls from the other countries are, and has definitely given me the motivation to improve and be more competitive in the coming years.

Do you have a favourite race from last season? Which one was it and what was special about it for you?

Probably the Individual in Lenzerheide. I had a bit of a cold and knew I wasn’t skiing particularly fast in training, which wasn’t exactly filling me with confidence prior to my first ever Junior World Cup! But I was feeling OK on the day and I really wanted to race so I did- I was so nervous I missed 3 on the first shoot, but somehow came back to hit all of the last 15 targets and skied the best I ever had at that point. I hadn’t seen the results but my mum rang me almost in tears to say well done and that I’d finished 60th out of 74. It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to anyone else but having had most of my race experience roller skiing around a car park in Oxfordshire it felt like a very big deal to me!

It’s not easy being a biathlete in Great Britain. What are the hardest things about it? What are the good things?

For me as a civilian in Great Britain, I think the hardest part is that there is no Junior squad or British training group for me to join, so I do sometimes feel very isolated training by myself. Last year I also struggled with organising my training- as I had next to no experience I often had to resort to googling how to organise training plans or ask anyone that could help me! Thankfully this year I am now getting a training plan and guidance through the British Nordic ski team, which is one less thing for me to worry about and I’m super grateful for. Lack of funding is also a problem for the team as a whole as well as myself, although I realise that it’s an issue in a lot of sports and I’m fortunate to have parents who are willing to do almost anything to support me when they see that I can’t support myself. There are also good things though- being a small team means that I’ve made some really close friends, and being the “little one” out of the British girls I feel like the older girls have really looked out for me and been a shoulder to cry on when races don’t go well, which has been really nice. Some of the ex GB biathletes have also been incredibly generous and I can’t thank them enough. And with Amanda doing so well it’s awesome to have someone who I can really look up to and aspire to be like.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life?

Edinburgh University have been really supportive in making sure I can catch up on any work I miss, and I was very grateful to them for letting me take my winter exams in August as I was away racing in December. Obviously I have to make some sacrifices within my social life, but I have a great group of friends who are always really supportive even when I don’t get to see them as much as I would like. I’m also very lucky to live with my best friend, who competes on the World Cup for rifle shooting (and has recently been getting some awesome results), so totally gets it if I’m grouchy for no apparent reason and just want to lie in bed watching Made in Chelsea because I’m tired!

Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

Freshers week…
(For my non-UK readers Freshers week is the week before you begin classes at University and involves a lot of parties and alcohol!)

What are your goals for next season and further into the future?

Next season will be my first season as a senior so I’m hoping I’ll qualify for the IBU Cup team and then take it from there. I’m aiming to qualify for the World Cup in the next 3 years with my ultimate goal being to compete at the Winter Olympics.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What will you be working on over the summer?

My biggest strength is definitely the accuracy of my shooting, but I need to work on shooting faster and not losing so much time on the range. My biggest weaknesses are my ski speed and my (lack of) downhill technique, but I am now working with British Nordic so I am confident I can make big improvements leading up to next winter.

Do you have any hobbies away from biathlon?

I used to do figure skating when I was younger and I’ve been getting back into that recently which has been really fun! I’m also a big American football fan and support the Cincinnati Bengals (which can be a challenge in itself…) so I try and catch up on their games in the winter!

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

I loved racing in Lenzerheide, the area is stunning and I felt the tracks really suited me with long uphills but that weren’t too steep.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Johannes Boe, because he’s always exciting to watch race and you know he’ll give absolutely everything if he thinks he has a chance to win.

Does your rifle have a name?

Yes, it’s called Freddie.

Describe yourself in three words.

Determined, Stubborn, Caffeinated

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Czech Republic
Favourite shooting range: Ruhpolding, mostly because there never seems to be any wind to worry about!
Nicest biathlete: He’s retired but I’ve got to say Mike Dixon because without him I would never have had the confidence to give biathlon a go.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Getting to train and compete in incredible places I would never otherwise think to visit.

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Sofie Hopkins: The Interview!

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18-year-old Sofie Hopkins from Great Britain is a great example of the perseverance you need to become a biathlete. Coming from a country where biathlon is not popular it is a very difficult career to choose and requires a lot of sacrifice and determination as well as courage. Here she talks about her goals for the future and her clear love of the sport.

You can follow Sofie on Twitter: @Sofiehops
She has a Facebook page: Sofie Hopkins (Sportsperson)
She has her own blog: https://landofsofie.wordpress.com/

Biathlon isn’t a big sport in Great Britain. How did you discover it and why did you want to become a biathlete?
I first discovered biathlon through my Dad’s Army friend as he had done a bit of biathlon with the military. He also was first to suggest the idea as at the time I was competing in National Cross Country and Hockey Events with the Army Cadet Force which I really enjoyed. I knew then I wanted to pursue a career in a sport and that’s when my Dad’s friend turned around and observed that “I had really big feet” (I was a size 9 when I was 13) and my build was similar to most biathletes already. I then searched biathlon online and I instantly fell in love with it and watched it everyday for a month on youtube. My Dad asked me if I really wanted to do such an insane sport and if was I willing to dedicate my time as he explained it would be a lot of sacrifice. I replied with a yes and from that day on that is exactly what I have done.

How much and what kind of training do you? Do you have a coach?
I train 5 days a week, however it has been cut down to 3 at the moment due to my A Level exams. I use roller skis for 4 of the days where I do endurance one day, technique another and then focus on speed wherever I can fit it in. I also go to the gym once a week where I do biathlon specific exercises, for example: pulling down on wires but adding weight each time. I am also an avid runner and like to do the occasional 10km once every other week as I still compete in local running competitions to get more experience in terms of competing. I’m also very fortunate to use the uphill slope at the ski centre in Xscape, Castleford as the staff kindly allow me to use the uphill and junior slope at 6am before customers arrive. After I have done my one and a half hours of skiing I then do another hour of Alpine Skiing with The Lions Ski Club as I also really enjoy other skiing disciplines and it is helpful as I can usually incorporate some of the skills into my biathlon. My coach is my Dad as he has supported me throughout my Biathlon journey and our close father and daughter relationship has really helped. My Dad is not a skiing coach, but after serving as an officer in the military as a Sniper for over 20 years and also qualifying to be an NRA coach he knows a lot about shooting. He gave up his job in the Army to focus on training me, which means the world to me.The skiing side was purely self-taught from watching youtube videos and also gathering tips from many other people over the years. Shooting has also been a big part of my life as I started shooting at the age of 5 where me and my father would go out and hunt for rabbits.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?
I find that my flexible timetable at college helps me to fit in my training perfectly as most of the time I only do quarter or half days of lessons. This allows me to do a lot of training, although when I get home at 6pm then I focus on my studies for a good 4 hours before getting an early night. However due to the intensity of my training I do find it very hard to concentrate on my work and sometimes end up falling asleep very early whilst I’m doing my homework. In terms of my social life I feel that in my first 2 years I put my social life on hold. I went to occasional events to support my other friends in their future careers, however training dominated most of my time. I now do squeeze in time to see my friends on a weekend as I think that it’s good to have some free time to socialise as it creates a good balance between the two. If I wasn’t training for biathlon I really don’t know what I would be doing. Biathlon has changed my life for the better. It has become a part of who I am.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?
I do not receive any “official” long term funding at the moment. However I have recently secured a sponsorship deal with Eley Ammunition who are supplying me with 5,000 rounds a year and Eley merchandise which has been a big help. The money for travelling and equipment is all saved and self raised by me and my parents. I go skiing at a Caravan Park near where I live and by doing raffles and just by talking to people on the campsite we managed to raise a £100 pound in 1 week, which is incredible. The manager on the site also shaved his hair off last year to raise money for me and we made an immense amount of money and it was a brilliant day for me and all the caravaners. If we are not doing raffles or anything special a lot of people I meet give me a donation out of the kindness of their hearts and I’m forever grateful. In terms of my rifle which is not cheap my parents managed to save up £1000 pounds which we knew wasn’t enough and was preying on our minds for months. However luckily the owner of the Shooting ground where I shoot twice a week ordered my Anschutz rifle and paid the rest of the money for it. He also got a good friend to make me my own range, which in total cost £2000 pounds. I can’t believe how generous people have been. Me and my Father over the past four years wrote letter after to letter to every different company you could think of and all we got was a resounding “no” or no response at all. The first year me and my parents planned a Summer Trip to the DKB Skihalle in Oberhof we had to scrape what money we had together to get there. We couldn’t afford a plane or an apartment so my Dad drove his car what seemed liked 3000+ miles over the border at Dover all the way down to Oberhof where we had to find a campsite and sleep in a tent. Even with a low budget we have always tried to get there. I’ve always said you have to sacrifice for what you love.

Did you go to the British Championships in Ruhpolding? How did you do and what did you learn from the experience?
This year was my second year of competing at the British Championships and I learnt an awful lot. I didn’t do as well as the previous year, but after a week of analysing what went wrong I am really grateful that the slips ups happened so I can work on them. The biggest thing I learnt not only about competing, but about myself was that I can not achieve under pressure. I started off really well on the 7.5km Sprint, which I wasn’t aware of until I got pulled off as everything started going in slow motion around me and I just collapsed under the pressure to achieve as I had done so well the year before.

For more about this you can read Sofie’s thoughts on her blog here: https://landofsofie.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/the-pressures-of-competition-my-story/

What are your goals for the rest of this year and the future?
My goals for this year was to build up my confidence in a competition scenario again which I feel I have already conquered through the different competitions I have been entering since January and I now feel comfortable and a competitive scene has no longer become overwhelming. My long term future goals is to get to the highest level in the sport that I can. I would love to one day be in the World Cup, it would be an honour to be skiing with some of the Worlds greatest biathletes!

What are your strengths as a biathlete and what are your weaknesses? Do you have anything that you specifically want to work on just now?
I feel my strengths are on the range as I’ve been shooting since I was 5 years old so it is pretty much second nature to me. However as far as weaknesses my speed on the flats has always been an issue. I do think that it is slowly improving as people have noticed that my glide technique (or Skate 1) has improved tenfold in comparison to what it was a year ago. If I were to be my own critic I now think that maintaining speed around a course is a big weakness overall and hopefully my summer training regime will help me to practice and perfect this.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?
I think I would have to borrow Darya Domracheva’s technique. She is so effortless on the snow, but still so fast. Although it’s obviously really tough she makes it look like a walk in the park whilst also making it look stylish in some way.

Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)
My biathlon heroine is hands down Magdalena Neuner. She has won so many titles and did it in such a short space of time. I really admire her work ethic and also the way she was confident to criticise some training methods and try ones that she had created herself. My ultimate role model is my Dad, he has such a great attitude to life and sacrificed so much to give me the best life possible and make sure I do everything with my best efforts. He has always encouraged me to do things that I have been scared or unsure about so that I have no fear, which has made me stronger and more confident. My Dad has also done lots of great things in his life independently and I hope to follow in his footsteps and make him proud!

What do you do to relax and forget about biathlon for a bit?
I find a day with my friends and having a catch up over a cup of tea is the perfect way to switch off from training. I like to keep my friends and my work (as in training) separate, although of course they are very supportive and I always keep them up to date with my progress as they generally find it interesting listening to my stories. If I’m not doing that I will sit on the sofa watching movies or reading books for long periods of time. Once I’m in a good book you can’t take me away!

Describe yourself in three words.
Shy, Serious and Loving.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track:Oberhof
Favourite biathlete (past or present):Martin Fourcade
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Individual
Favourite/best race of your career so far? British Championships 2015, 12.5km Women’s Individual
Favourite food: Olives
Favourite singer/band: Jackie Evancho
Favourite film: The Burbs
Favourite TV show: Sherlock Holmes

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Scott Dixon: The Interview!

dixonint

In the last of my series of interviews with Junior biathletes this season I spoke to Great Britain’s Scott Dixon. Scott was born on the 9th of July 1994 and so this is his final year as a Junior. He has already competed on the IBU and the World Cup and is currently in Finland for the Senior World Championships. He achieved his best result in the Juniors this year finishing in 18th place in the Individual 15km an improvement of 5 places from last year in Presque Isle. He is now living and training in Norway. His Dad is 6 time Olympian, biathlon coach and Eurosport commentator Mike Dixon. Scott is possibly the only biathlete who is sponsored by a castle!

Scott has a Facebook page: Scott Dixon Biathlete

Why did you become a biathlete? Did your Dad make you do it or did you have a choice?!! 😉

I was very stubborn as a teenager, never committing fully to one thing at a time. I liked to play Rugby and Football and Biathlon was just the different sport that separated me from the normality of school life. I became very passionate about Biathlon when I was 16. This is when I couldn’t miss a race on T.V and if I did I would have to watch it at the next available time. I knew then that biathlon was my passion and I had to pursue it.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

This year I have been living in Norway, trying to learn the language which has been interesting! My interests are almost entirely sport based and my plan is to take a sport psychology (open university) course this year. Balancing a social life with training, I think, is not too difficult. Many top athletes may surprise you by how often they relax and socialise. I have to plan quite carefully my visits home to the UK to visit my family and girlfriend. She lives in England and my family in Scotland. So it is important to minimise travel and expenses in this case.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

My head sponsor ‘Heaver Castle & Gardens’ contributes enormously to my expenses in Norway. The basis of this sponsorship is my personal belief that I can one day compete amongst the very best in the world. I think my current location and level of motivation is perfect for making this happen. RMA sports kindly sponsor me and help me greatly with kit. Always reliable and with the best prices on so much kit. I know without the support from this company I would not be where I am now.

What were your goals for the Junior World Championships in Raubichi? Did you achieve them? Were you happy with your overall performances?

At the end of last season (2013/14) I decided that I am capable of achieving a top 10 at this year’s Junior World Championships in Belarus. I had to improve my overall game but most specifically, my ski speed. I was training along side some of the top Norwegian Juniors as part of team ‘Statkraft Lillehammer’ and felt like I was improving dramatically on the shooting range and on the skis. Sadly, in mid October I got ‘Compartment Syndrome’ in my lower abdominal muscles by simply running gently down a mountain after a hard session. A very rare and freak occurrence that put me out of training at a crucial time for over 120 hours of planned training. I spoke with my coach Sverre T. Roiseland to discuss/manage my expectations and figure out what I could expect from myself when I got back into full training and what to expect at the Junior World Championships. My goals did not change (perhaps this was naive) but I had to be prepared for a slower ski speed than initially anticipated and therefore try not to be disappointed if I do not achieve this goal.

The Junior World Championships approached very quickly and I felt like my ski form was approaching at the right time, which was good! My shooting had taken a positive turn for the best at the British Championships where I cleared my first ever Individual 20/20 and the next day the sprint 10/10. This was a good confidence boost for Minsk. However, shooting is a cruel game. If you think about it too much everything can change.

Minsk arrived and I was delighted with many aspects of my performance. If someone told me I would hit 38/40 in the Individual and Pursuit I probably wouldn’t have believed it. So this was an enormous achievement for me. Also being able to identify why I had 4 errors in the Sprint and then act on it for the next day was a big achievement. My 18th place was emotional. It is a personal best but we had some difficulties with our skis on the day and the entire British teams form on the skis really took a beating. With one mistake I knew it is possible to make a top 10! I was gutted.

The Sprint saw me failing to stick to my routine in the range. Almost a valuable lesson worth having, even at this crucial time because I was able to rectify this for the pursuit the next day. Starting the pursuit in 49th and moving up 18 places to 31st was a fantastic experience, missing 1 target again. This is another big achievement for me. What a shame I didn’t do better in the sprint.

What did you learn from the Championships? What do you need to improve and what are your plans to do it?

I learned a great deal about discipline on the shooting range. How so many factors can influence your shooting and how you have to focus on yourself, shutting out all distractions. Knowing this and implementing it are two very different things. It will take years to master but I think I am on the right path.

The British team are on a small budget and we certainly can’t expect to compete for the best skis on the field every event. We couldn’t bring a wax man with us to the Championships. (We have a wax man on the World Cup) I need to learn to accept this until our budget increases and strive to do everything I can personally to make the best of my situation rather than acting emotionally on it. I allow this to use up far too much mental energy.

I will improve my skiing speed. I have a fantastic coach and I know that with his advice I will make big leaps in my ski speed for next year. Hopefully I will avoid injury and see a good improvement come next season.

You have already raced on the World Cup. What is it like racing against the likes of Bjoerndalen and Fourcade? Is it inspirational or a bit nerve wracking or maybe both?

I love it, however I am always gutted to miss watching these races because I enjoy them so much. I can’t complain really because I get to compete against the athletes I love watching compete. I am looking forward to the day I can begin making an impression on the World Cup circuit.

You had a bit of an unusual injury earlier in the season. Can you tell me what happened and is the problem solved now?

I had Compartment Syndrome in my lower abdominal muscles. It is normally an injury people suffer in the lower legs or forearms and is extremely rare in the abs. In the Norwegian hospital, of four Doctors (one of which was a physio for a national Ice hockey team) only one of them had seen this specific injury before in this area of the body. He must have called me a ‘Rare Bird’ a thousand times.

I was running innocently down a mountain after a pretty crazy hard 6 x 5 minute running interval session up it. I felt a slow onset of pain, like a stitch, in my abs above my groin and ignored it for quite some time. I got back to the car after the session and from there until I got back to my house, I concluded something was seriously wrong as I couldn’t lift my leg to use the clutch any more.

I was taken to hospital by my coaches who looked after me very well. I am lucky to be a part of such a positive team. After being treated for my injury that evening I went home to recover in England and Scotland for quite some time. I was very sad to miss out on the training camp that week.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

I am young and doing exactly what I want to do with my life. Maybe it isn’t always a smooth ride but I enjoy it. I feel that I should take advantage of my situation and continue to enjoy it while there is good progress. Some times, things that are out of your control have a massive influence on your performance. This is frustrating, especially when you work so hard for your goals.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

A tough question, I think I want to earn all my characteristics and add my own unique touch to them. I think that Andrejs Rastorgujevs is the best example of a hungry athlete. He wants to win and he is an underdog from an under funded nation like mine. Seeing people like him making it to the top reinforces my belief that I can do it.

Can you describe your routine on a race day? When do you get up, eat, warm up, what you do after the race etc.

Race days used to be so stressful, I was never organised. But now I always make a list of what I need to take to the course, what times I need to be there etc. This way I don’t get stressed! I always start my day with a 5-15minute jog to get the body and mind ready for action. I try and eat a good amount in the morning, hopefully porridge is on the menu but I settle for near enough anything with carbs. It isn’t necessary to over eat before the race, just enough not to be hungry on the start line so this depends on my start time as to what I eat that day.

Before zero starts (45 minutes before the race starts) I normally test the skis I have been given for that day to determine which are running fastest. The reason being that each ski has a different ‘grind’ in the base and therefore runs differently in different snow conditions. Once selected I am then free to Zero my weapon for the days conditions.

I then take my start time and subtract about 40 minutes from it and this is when I will start my warm up. Once complete, I am ready to unleash the beast! Which hopefully is ready to go!

Your Dad used to be your coach. How did that work in practice? Can you separate training and parenting? Does he start a lot of sentences with “Well when I was a biathlete we used to….” or “we didn’t do that in my day son” !! 😉

It was fantastic. I know his raw positivity and natural hard working attitude was a brilliant guide in my early years as a Biathlete. Something I am extremely thankful for and perhaps grateful enough for it in my early days. In my middle teenage years I was stubborn and difficult to manage like most teenagers but my Dad was always positive, supportive and understanding despite my difficult nature at times! In the last two years I really hope I have learned to appreciate the fantastic opportunity I have been given and learn from the mistakes I have made, am making and will make in the future.

When my Dad starts a sentence like that, he is normally right anyway to be honest!

Does your rifle have a name?

I’m afraid not!

Describe yourself in three words.

Motivated, Hungry (mostly for food but also for success from time to time) and Content.

Quick fire Questions:


Favourite biathlon track
: Idre – Sweden, followed closely by Raubichi, Belarus.
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Andrejs Rastorgujevs!
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): I like the Individual, it is a brain game! To spectate – the mass start!
Favourite/best race of your career so far? The 12.5km Pursuit at the Junior World Champs. I had a terrible Sprint the day before. I started the Pursuit in 49th position but managed to have one of my best races ever in the shooting range, moving me up 18 places. It was such fun going past people on the penalty loop having shot 1 – 0 – 0 – 0.
Favourite food: I love salmon, Mushrooms (creamy sauce) with rice!
Favourite singer/band: Imagine Dragons
Favourite film: I love mind twisting films, Inception is pretty great! Source code is also up there with Cloud Atlas… This list goes on.
Favourite sports team: I don’t really watch football so I guess team Sky. Based on their incredibly professional attitude.
Favourite TV show: Family Guy

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A Light Foot across the snow!

lightfoot

“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!

Follow Amanda on Twitter: @amandabiathlon1
Like her Facebook Fan page: ‘Amanda Lightfoot Biathlete -Fan Page’

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