ZB

'I turned it on': Kiwi happy with Winter Games debut

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 9 Feb 2022, 8:16am
Campbell Wright impressed in his Winter Olympic Games debut. (Photo / Getty Images)
Campbell Wright impressed in his Winter Olympic Games debut. (Photo / Getty Images)

'I turned it on': Kiwi happy with Winter Games debut

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 9 Feb 2022, 8:16am

Under the brightest lights of his young career, Kiwi biathlete Campbell Wright shone. 

At 19-years-old, Wright was the youngest of the 92 athletes competing in the men's 20km individual race at the Winter Games last night (NZ time), but was more than up to the challenge. 

In an event that requires a mix of accuracy, focus, speed and talent – combining the grind of cross-country skiing with rifle shooting - Wright had one of the best performances of his life. 

Wright finished in 32nd place in his Olympic Games debut - 4min12.4sec off gold medallist and current world No.1 Quinten Fillon Maillet of France – stopping the clock with a time better than 60 other athletes. 

"I'm super happy," Wright told Sky after the race. "Of course, I can't compete for a medal because I'm still young in the sport of biathlon, but I'm really happy with how I went today. 

"I turned it on; I don't know how but I turned it on, so I'm really stoked with today." 

Wright was strong and showed some speed on his skis, while he was a near perfect marksman at the range. 

The shooting aspect of the race was always likely to trip some athletes up given the conditions, with wind making things that much tougher. A bad day on the range can prove costly in biathlon, with every missed target costing the athlete a minute on their final time. Only two of the 92 athletes managed to hit every one of their 20 targets throughout the race. 

Wright, who has been working on his shooting in the lead up to the Games, hit 18 of his 20, missing one target at the first standing range and one at the second prone (lying down) stop. The misses saw him tack an extra two minutes on to his time. In comparison, Fillon Maillet also missed two targets. 

In his first Olympic race, Wright said he wasn't feeling too nervous leading into the race, and that showed in his performance. 

"Being from New Zealand and being 19, I should come last in these races, so there's no pressure at all," he said. 

"I think that's the second-best I've ever shot in an individual, so there's not much criticism from me. You can't ask much more from the Olympics; it was my biggest race and one of my best." 

Finishing 32nd, Wright will be a reserve for the 15km mass start race later in the Games - with the top 30 from the individual race qualifying. 

He'll be back in action in the 10km sprint race on Saturday, in which the top 60 finishers will go on to compete in the 12.5km pursuit race the next day. 

Speed skater Peter Michael was the only other New Zealander to compete in Beijing yesterday, lining up in the 1500m event. 

Michael, who had two fourth place finishes in the 5000m and team pursuit at the Winter Olympics four years ago, was off the pace in the shorter distance finishing 26th out of the 29-man field. 

He was well off his personal best of 1:44.96 record five years ago, which would have best good enough for sixth. Michael recorded a time of 1:48.68, 5.47 seconds behind gold medal winner Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands in an Olympic record time. Fellow Dutchman Thomas Krol claimed silver while South Korea's Minseok Kim took the bronze.