SOUTH Shields biathlete Amanda Lightfoot is at the Winter Olympics - less than a year after her first experience of Sochi left her thinking her career was over.
She slid off the skiing course on the first bend of the official Olympic test event in March last year, and hit a tree.
She was stretchered down the mountain and loaded into an ambulance in such haste her worried team took some time to discover her whereabouts.
And the knee injury she suffered was so serious, it was initially feared she might never ski again.
Despite fearing her Olympic dream was over, the 27-year-old fought her way back to fitness, and will this week seek to make her peace with the course when she lines up as the first female biathlete to represent GB since 2006.
She said: “It’s an amazing feeling to be back here preparing for an Olympics after last year, when I was being carried off the mountain for an operation and wondering if I would get back on skis again.
“I’d been aiming for the Olympics for four years, and it was devastating to think I might miss it.
“But, after coming through the operation, it just got me more psyched to get it, and it’s going to make it even more special when I am on that start-line.
“I’ve done a lot of mental preparation this year, and I’ve run it over so many times in my head it’s like I’ve done it 1,000 times before.
“But when I went round that corner again the other day it was a big relief.”
Lightfoot is one of two members of the GB biathlon team, along with Lee Jackson, who made his debut in Vancouver four years ago, and both will compete amid the breathtaking mountain range high above Rosa Khutor.
The pair have already received a major boost, with the news that the future of the threatened GB biathlon programme has been secured thanks to a six-figure sponsorship with a Birmingham healthcare supplier.
Lightfoot added: “It was a big worry, and it’s a weight off my mind to know we have the sponsorship in place and there’s nothing stopping us pushing forward into another Olympics cycle.
“But it’s something I’ve got to push it to the back of my mind. After everything I’ve been through I’m fully focused on making the most of my opportunity in Sochi before I start looking at what might happen afterwards.”
* Tweet your good luck messages to Amanda via @shieldsgazette and we’ll pass them on to her.
* Follow her progress online here from Sunday and in The Shields Gazette from Monday.