My name is Darcie Morton and I’m a biathlete currently in Europe training and racing as part of my preparations for the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The story of how I got into Biathlon starts with my Dad. He used to race for Australia on the World Cup and so I was introduced to skiing at a very young age and soon found a love for it. I can remember when I was younger just tagging along with my brother, Damon, and Dad during training sessions but over the last year and a half I have started to train more seriously and intensively as I wished to compete in the sport professionally.
Growing up I loved to participate in a range of sports including soccer and table tennis as well as biathlon and cross country skiing. I first competed in biathlon in Canmore, Canada at age 10 where I did some air rifle biathlon and trained for 6 weeks with the Canmore Biathlon Club. I even won an under 15 Calforex Cup. I remember skiing around with Lucy Glanville who my Dad was coaching and competed for Australia at the 2012 Youth Olympics in cross country skiing. At this stage I was also participating in the NSW cross country skiing program alongside my brother. However, I went on to focus more on table tennis where I ended up having quite a few highlights including representing Oceania at the 2013 World Cadet Championships in Slovenia .
In May 2014 I missed making the World Cadet Championship team and decided to change my focus to Biathlon. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made as I had a good coach in table tennis, lots of good friends, sponsors and was having success. The choice and opportunity to race biathlon was there and my feeling was that I loved the outdoors, was ready for a change and should give it a go as I would have to move away from home to pursue table tennis dreams and I wasn’t ready to do this.
So I set the goal to compete in Europe in 2014/15 and make the World Youth and Junior Championships (WYJCH) and really focus on fast tracking my development in the sport. Over this year I was lucky to be able to train with some really good coaches and had some really promising results. I enjoyed the challenge of learning to shoot and training in the outdoors.
In December 2014 I qualified for the WYJCH in the first race of the season in Italian Cup 1, Martell, where I placed 5th in the under 17. My highlights for this season included winning an Austrian Cup Under 17 Distance Event in January and then racing in the WYJCH in Belarus where we started Australia’s first ever Youth Women relay team. I made the pursuit and started first in the relay and was happy to shoot clean and hand over to our next athlete in 8th position.
This season in Australia I was really lucky to be able to undertake an international training camp at Mt Hotham with Australian Biathlon and the IBU and then train for the whole winter with a coach from Italy, Luca Bormolini, who first worked with me at the World Junior Championships in Belarus as the Australian Team Coach. Through the winter I really worked on my shooting and improved a lot with my domestic highlight being shooting clean to win the Australian Biathlon Sprint Championships. My best skiing result was winning the Australian Kangaroo Hoppet – 1st female and 2nd Overall.
By winning all four selection races last Australian winter I qualified for the Youth Olympics in Lillehammer along with my teammate Jethro Mahon. I’m really excited to be a part of this event and race against all the different athletes around the world, not only to see how I compare to them but also just for the experience of racing in that kind of huge event with all the spectators and everything. It should be really amazing.
Currently I am based in Mals, Italy, attending a sports school called Sportoberschule Mals (which literally means Mals Sports High School). Apart from training with the biathlon team here I’m also learning Italian and German at the school. The school is really different to Australia in many ways, for one everyone speaks fluent German and Italian so they’ll swap half way through a German conversation to Italian and back again, which makes it harder to understand. However, I find I’m learning a lot each day from just being immersed in the language and culture so it’s a good experience. The other big difference in comparison to my home school, Orbost in far East Gippsland, is that the school starts at 7:30am and finishes at 3:15pm, which was a big shock at first as I’m used to the usual late 9:00am start in Australia. During a normal school week I have 3 full days of school and the next two full days of training, though we sometimes also train after school as well.
It has been challenging for me to undertake the high level of training that I aspire to for my future and I have been required to manage a lot of things independently, but have had some great help from coaches and liaison teachers.
On the weekends I go to Livigno to train with my coach Luca Bormolini and a contingent of National Team athletes who are based there training with the Livigno Biathlon Club.
The first couple of races of the season have started and I had a really good result in my first race in Switzerland, Andermatt last week where I placed 1st in the woman’s youth 2, shooting 0, 0. So I was really happy with that. This weekend I will be going to another race this time in Martell, Italy, which is really close to Mals and where my school often goes to train. So I am just getting pumped for that.