Lightfoot Notches 34th At World Champs, A Best for Britain

Chelsea LittleMarch 15, 20111
Lightfoot competing in Britain's trademark Union Jack race suit.

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Great Britain doesn’t have a strong history in biathlon, and even less so on the women’s side. In 2006, Emma Fowler became the first British woman to compete in biathlon at the Olympics; in Torino, her top finish was 67th in the sprint.

But things might be changing, thanks in part to Walter Pichler, who took over as head coach in 2008. Pichler is originally from Ruhpolding, Germany, the heartland of biathlon, and won Olympic bronze as part of the West German relay team in 1984. His cousin, Wolfgang Pichler, coaches the highly successful Swedish team.

At this year’s World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, the Brits achieved something previously unheard of: they placed two men and one woman in the pursuit races, for which only the top 60 athletes qualify. The men were 31-year-old Lee-Steve Jackson and 33-year-old Marcel Laponder, who had top finishes of 55th and 57th this week.

The woman leaves even more hope for the future of British biathlon. At a relatively youthful 24 years of age, Amanda Lightfoot not only made the pursuit, but she finished 34th in the next race, the individual.

Is Lightfoot the next Andrew Musgrave? Regardless of the answer, she has room to grow as a biathlete and seems likely to lead the Brits into a new era. FasterSkier was able to do a brief interview with her from Siberia.

FasterSkier: When and how did you get into biathlon?

Amanda Lightfoot: I started biathlon at the age of 19- it was my first time ever on nordic skis, and what an experience that was. I took a love for it almost straight away. I got into biathlon through the British army, as I am a soldier in the AGC Corp, and it was initially an adventure training for me through the army.

FS: How big is the biathlon community in Britain, and what resources do you have?

AL: Biathlon is not well known in Britain at all, nearly all of our athletes are from the British army, and this was the first time I had ever heard of the sport also.

FS: What do you do for training – are there places to train in Britain, or do you spend a lot of time traveling?

AL: I train in Ruhpolding Germany from May to November, then we are travelling around to all of the competitions. I don’t really spend that much time at home throughout the year. We do get April off though, where we can go and spend time with our families.

We do have a place in Kinloss (Scotland) called East Grange Biathlon Centre. This is where our development athletes go after competing in the British Championships and getting selected for full time training. I spent January 2007 there, which was my first full time training for biathlon.

FS: Walter Pichler took over the program a couple years ago – what is it like working with him?

AL: Walter Pichler is my full time coach at the moment and I love working with him. His knowledge of the sport is fantastic, and he is always pushing me to new limits. I am really looking forward to the summer’s training this year, and hope to make more and more improvements for the next season.

FS: It seems like this has been a real breakout year for you – how does it feel, especially coming from such a small country without a lot of past success?

AL: My 34th place in the individual at World Championships was the best feeling in the world for me, I was so happy with the result, and to score points as well was fantastic. It was a hard day at the range and I knew hitting the targets was the only way to get a good position on the results sheet. I was super nervous on the first standing and it shows, as I missed two targets, but when I came in for my final shoot, I was so focused and just said to my self  “just do what you do in training” and it worked. I left the range with a zero, which pushed me up on the results sheet.

I think it is great as a small country to finally be getting noticed more as a team. I think our new suits are having an effect on people (laughs).

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Chelsea Little

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One comment

  • zachhandler

    March 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    5 years on skis to reach 34th in a world championship? That’s just not fair!

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