Retrans from Australian Olympic Committee: BIATHLON: Darcie Morton, 15, and Jethro Mahon, 16, will have the chance to live out their Olympic dreams after being officially selected to the Australian Team for the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
The biathlon duo set themselves apart from the qualification pack with a strong domestic season and are now both in Europe as they prepare for the biggest event of their young careers.
“It is certainly exciting to get the chance to compete in Lillehammer and represent my country,” said Mahon, who lives in Melbourne’s east.
“There will be nerves because there will be a lot of tough competition but it will be great to see where I’m at.”
Morton, whose father Cameron competed for Australia in the sport at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games, is also pumping herself up for February’s event.
“I think it’s going to be a really great experience to represent Australia in such a huge competition and I’m really privileged to be given the opportunity to do so,” said the East Gippsland youngster.
“It will be really interesting to see where I stand against the other athletes around the world.”
Following their qualification the pair headed to the north of Italy to begin their European seasons and train with esteemed coach Luca Bormolini.
“It’s been really good to be able to train and race overseas with the Mals and Livigno/Australia teams,” Morton said.
“I think having done some races over here already has been really good preparation for the Youth Olympic Games.”
“It’s great training with Luca,” Mahon added. “He comes out and skis with us, coaches us one-on-one, helps us with shooting and has a great insight into the sport.”
While they will head into the event having not competed on the Lillehammer course they will certainly look to familiarise themselves with it as much as possible in the final weeks leading in.
“I’ve definitely started looking into the course maps to get a feel for what it will be like to race on,” said Mahon.
“It looks pretty well-balanced, so a well-rounded athlete will be able to do it quite well.”
Whatever the result in Lillehammer both athletes have shown remarkable progress in a sport where athletes are seen to peak in their late twenties.
Morton only recently turned her focus to the sport after competing in table tennis at a high level.
“I’ve been doing biathlon for around two years but I’ve been skiing since I was about five.
“I’m pretty happy with my progress in the sport so far. I think I’ve improved a lot since last year in both my skiing and shooting but of course I still feel I’ve got a lot of room for improvement.”
For Mahon it’s also been a rapid rise to success after an interesting introduction to the sport.
“My dad took me out target shooting and I had a bit of a talent for it but my mum said I needed to do some exercise.
“We looked around and I began doing biathlon. I’d never done cross country skiing in my life so it took a while to get used to but I’ve definitely progressed.”
Morton and Mahon will compete in the Sprint and Pursuit events, and together in a Mixed nation relay. There will be 50 male and 50 female biathletes aged 15 or 16 from around the world chasing the coveted Youth Olympic medals.
Along with biathlon, Australia is looking to take a team of approximately 14 athletes in snowboard, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, cross country skiing, ice hockey (skills challenge), luge and short track skating.
The Lillehammer Games will be the second Winter Youth Olympic Games, following on from Innsbruck in 2012. The 2016 version will include many of the venues from the Winter Games in 1994 with 1,100 young athletes from 70 nations competing in 70 events. It will be a competition and education experience they will never forget.