It's a minor miracle that Amanda Lightfoot is competing at world and Olympic level in Biathlon, having never even heard of nordic skiing until she was 19 years old.
So how did it happen?
Having joined the Army at 16 through the Army Foundation College (AFC) Harrogate, Amanda was later posted to Germany and after a tour of Iraq, was invited to the Adjutant General's Corps (AGC) Nordic team. 'Every year, the Army sends around 300 soldiers to learn how to ski and shoot the biathlon rifle,' Amanda explains. 'I got selected and learnt how to ski - it was my first time on snow, first time on skis.'
After a strong start, and collecting a bunch of novice awards, Amanda was picked up by the development team. The Army then made the decision to support Amanda, and see if she could make it. 'The Army were setting goals and I was attaining them. I went from Novice to Olympian in six years having never skied. It is a funny story. When I say it, it sounds weird, it's unbelievable.'
Fast forward to today and Amanda is a HR Specialist in the AGC with the rank of Sergeant, and working on securing her place at the Beijing Olympics, with qualification opening at the beginning of 2021. But it won't be until the following year that she finds out whether she's successful. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, the preparation has been far from ideal. 'I was in Finland at the World Cup, and they suddenly said, 'OK we're not doing any more races, you're leaving in 48 hours'' Amanda recalls. 'I was like, what do I do? This wasn't how I planned my season to end.'
Stuck at home, with no access to gym equipment, Amanda was forced to improvise, and even got hold of some roller blades to help with her training. 'I couldn't do all the strength building, so I do feel I&'m behind on the training side, but I have to remind myself that other athletes are like that, too.'
If you've yet to watch a Biathlon event, you're missing out according to Amanda. Its unique blend of shooting and skiing makes for some intense action. 'You never know who will win. Watch it once and you'll be hooked.'