NORTH-EAST duo Lee Jackson and Amanda Lightfoot have been selected as Great Britain’s biathlon representatives at next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The pair, who are both members of the military, will compete in the sprint and individual biathlon events, which combine up to 20km of cross-country skiing with two or more sessions of rifle shooting, with their results in those disciplines determining whether they are also eligible for the pursuit.
Jackson, who was born and raised in Stockton, has been competing in biathlon for 15 years and will be competing in his second Winter Olympics, having made his debut in Vancouver four years ago.
Lightfoot, who is from South Shields, will make her Olympic debut in Sochi and is only the second British woman to have achieved the qualifying standards required to compete at a Winter Olympics.
“The build up to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games has been a long, hard and winding road,” said Marc Walker, the performance director of British Biathlon. “But with the support of the British Biathlon Union and the Army, I am proud that Amanda and Lee have both not only met the qualification standard, but exceeded it.
“Leading the biathlon team into the Sochi Winter Olympics will be the highlight of my career and we will do our best to make Britain proud and prove we can be a competitive nation in such an alien sport.”
Jackson finished 55th in the sprint, 56th in the pursuit and 66th in the individual competition in Vancouver four years ago, but after a string of increasingly impressive World Cup performances, the 33-year-old is targeting a top-30 finish in Sochi.
“I’m delighted to have been selected to compete in my second Olympic Winter Games,” said Jackson, who is a serving member of the 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, based at Oakham. “Having missed out on selection for the Turin Winter Olympics, Vancouver taught me how to deal with the pressure of the build-up to the Games and I feel better prepared heading to Sochi.
“This has been a disciplined four-year commitment full of hard work and sacrifice, and remembering that helps me focus on the task at hand. My goal is to achieve a top-30 result in the individual 20km race.”
Lightfoot only took up biathlon seven years ago, and her international debut did not come until 2008, but the 26-year-old, who is a member of the Adjutant General’s Corps of the Army, is now the national champion having raced up the world rankings in the last 12 months.
“When it was announced that I had been selected for Sochi, I was overwhelmed, tears and laughter combined,” she said. “It has been a worthwhile journey to get to this point in my sporting career and I will enjoy every minute of the Winter Olympics. I want to be in the top 30 in the world, and I also want to compete in the Olympic pursuit race.”