Winter Olympics: Biathlete Campbell Wright hoping to prove himself for selection to represent New Zealand in Beijing

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Dec 2021, 3:09PM
Campbell Wright in action during the 10km sprint in Austria this in early December. Photo / Getty Images
Campbell Wright in action during the 10km sprint in Austria this in early December. Photo / Getty Images

Winter Olympics: Biathlete Campbell Wright hoping to prove himself for selection to represent New Zealand in Beijing

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Dec 2021, 3:09PM

Kiwi athlete Campbell Wright could be faced with an important decision in the coming months as the Beijing Winter Olympics looms. 

The 19-year-old, who competes in biathlon – a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, has made a bright start to his career, becoming just the second teenager in the history of the sport to win Biathlon World Cup points. 

With the Winter Olympics set to begin in February, Wright could face an important decision as he is eligible to represent both New Zealand and the United States. 

While Wright is hopeful to compete for the country of his birth, the New Zealand Olympic Committee's requirement of an athlete needed to be a chance of a top-16 finish at the Games means Wright has to prove his case over the next month. 

Over the last 10 days Campbell has competed in biathlon World Cup events in Hochfilzen in Austria and Le Grand Bornand in France, where his best finish was 40th place in the 10km sprint in Austria. 

The NZOC's selection criteria for Olympic Games' came under some scrutiny ahead of the Summer Games in Tokyo in 2021 for their requirement of athletes needing to be a top-16 hopeful. Sprinters Zoe Hobbs and Eddie Osei-Nketia both missing out on taking part in the Games despite having achieved qualification through their world rankings. 

It raised the question over the benefits of exposure and experience for both young athletes and their sports in the Olympic realm, and Wright could be in a similar position should he fail to convince the NZOC by the mid-January deadline. 

That could be a welcome decision for the USA Olympic team, who are said to be eyeing the young Kiwi up for the future. Wright is eligible to represent the United States as both his mother and father are dual citizens, and he would be very seriously considered to fill 
one of their four men for the event if he was available. 

Wright finished just one place behind American Jake Brown, who has already been selected for the USA Olympics team, in the 10km sprint in France earlier this month, while he finished ahead of Paul Schommer, who has also been selected by the USA for the Olympics, in the discipline in Sweden in late November. 

"Campbell is already putting New Zealand on the world map with his performances so far," his father Scott Wright said. "It's hard to overestimate how big a deal biathlon is in Europe and the international spotlight that will be shone on New Zealand if Campbell is able to compete at Beijing and future Olympic Games. 

"A medal at Beijing is unlikely, but not out of the question. If he is given the opportunity to compete in Beijing and gain the valuable experience that (biathlon great Ole Einar) Bjorndalen did, then a medal for New Zealand from Campbell at future Winter Olympics is a distinct possibility."