Win or lose, South Shields snow queen Amanda Lightfoot will achieve her Olympic dream tomorrow.
Amanda, 27, is competing in the biathlon at the Winter Olympics in Sochi – the first female biathlete to represent Great Britain since 2006.
Her first race, which involves skiing and shooting, will be the women’s 7.5km sprint and will be aired on BBC tomorrow at 2.30pm.
She said: “I never dreamed that I’d be an Olympian. I remember watching the summer Olympics on television, but I never really had a goal to be an athlete. But once I started in biathlon, it quickly became a bit of an obsession.”
Amanda, whose father William and mother Maureen still live in the town, joined the army’s Adjutant General Corps as a clerk at the age of 16 and decided to give the winter sport a try while she was serving in, of all places, Iraq.
Yesterday, she was at the official opening ceremony with her biathlon team-mate, Lee-Steve Jackson.
They joined 6,000 athletes from 85 countries, plus 1,650 Paralympians from 45 countries. During the 17 days of the games there will be 98 events.
Amanda needs to make it into the top 60 of tomorrow’s race to secure a slot in Thursday’s 10km pursuit, which will be aired at 3pm.
Biathlon is a cross country ski racing during which competitors are required to stop at various points and shoot at five targets each time. Every miss results in having to ski an extra 150-metre penalty loop
Amanda has spent the last few years competing in biathlon World Cup events, in front of crowds of up to 50,000 in Europe.
She said: “Obviously, winning a medal is the ultimate goal, but my aim is to get in the top 25 to 30. If I manage that, I will be very pleased.”
Her fnal race will be on Friday at 2pm – the women’s 15km individual race.
When she is at home, Amanda uses a variety of different training methods in order to maintain and improve her performance, including dry land roller-skating.
She added: “I didn’t join the military to be a biathlete, it just sort of happened. I was in Iraq and when I came back they were looking for people to go skiing and it seemed a good idea, but I’d never been on snow or even seen the sport before.
“I quickly took to it, and I was top novice at my first British Championships. That’s when I was selected for the development squad.
“I suppose it’s my personality but the more I did it, the more I wanted it
“I was watching the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver and that’s when I decided I really wanted to go to Sochi and decided I’d do everything I could to make the team.”