New Zealand’s loss could be the United States’ gain if promising Wanaka biathlete Campbell Wright does not make the New Zealand team for the Winter Olympics.
Wright needs to do everything possible before Saturday to prove to the New Zealand Olympic Committee he is worthy of selection for the Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin next month.
Wright’s parents Scott and Alison are dual New Zealand-US citizens, making their son eligible for US selection.
US biathlon team head coach Armin Auchentaller said Wright would be second or third-ranked in the US team and would have been guaranteed a spot in the US team for the Beijing Winter Olympics if he had been available.
“We’re watching Campbell Wright every single race knowing he has the American passport,” Auchentaller said.
Biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, is a national sport in Norway and is popular throughout Europe.
Wright (19) is regarded by some, including his Italian coach, Luca Bormolini, as possibly the most promising biathlete to emerge on the world scene since Ole Einar Bjorndalen, known as the “king of biathlon”, who won 13 Winter Olympic medals four silver and one bronze from 1998 to 2014.
Wright is only the second teenager behind Bjorndalen in the sport’s history to win biathlon world cup points, and his potential has been recognised in Norway where he has featured on national television.
He is based in Livigno in Italy with Bormolini, who has coached him for the past five years, and whose brother Thomas Bormolini is the Italian biathlon champion.
In his bid for selection, Wright is aiming to prove to the NZOC he has the form to achieve a top-16 finish at the Olympics qualify.
He competes on the European biathlon circuit with family funding, ski sponsorship from Rossignol and coaching support from Bormolini against corporately-sponsored and nationally backed-European teams with full-time support teams.
Biathlon is almost unknown in New Zealand only about 10 registered biathletes, who mainly train and compete at the Snow Farm.
Wanaka as he trains on the roads on roller skis in the off-season.
Bormolini said Wright was the most focused and determined biathlete he had ever coached and if he got the opportunity to compete for New Zealand in Beijing in February it would stand him in good stead for future Winter Olympics.
His father Scott Wright said his son was putting New Zealand on the biathlon world map with his performances.
“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 in Beijing was unlikely, but not out of the question, he said.
His son wanted to compete for the country of his birth, but the US had seen his potential and was eyeing him up for the future if he was not selected for New Zealand, Mr Wright said.