A Wanaka born-and-raised biathlete has competed in multiple national, European and international biathlon events over the past year.
Sixteen-year-old Angus Cagney from Mount Aspiring College is a member of Wanaka Biathlon Club and has been training for biathlon since age 11. This sporting event combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
Inspired to take up the sport by his family and award-winning Russian biathlete Anastasiya Kuzmina, Cagney received 10th place, along with the best shooting result of the entire competition, at a recent biathlon championship in Austria.
Cagney says: “My older sister, Ellen, started biathlon when she was 13 so I hung around the biathlon range at the same time, when I was 10, skiing in and out and watching the older kids. I don’t think I was annoying?”
Cagney continues: “Anastasiya used to come out to New Zealand and train at Snow Farm NZ during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer. I remember seeing her on the biathlon range when she was training, I was only 11 or 12, and she was so fast and shot clean. It was probably the first time I’d seen a medal-winning biathlete in action before and I was in awe. I was lucky enough to see Anastasiya compete in the IBU World Cup in January 2019 in Czech Republic where she won the womens’ 12.5 km mass start race. Anastasiya is originally from Russia but represented Slovakia for many years in biathlon until her recent retirement at the end of the 2018/2019 season.”
As a child and young teenager, Cagney suffered from asthma and glandular fever and was often unwell, especially in winter, but these illnesses were trumped by his love of biathlon and he has been practising and partaking in the sport ever since.
Cagney says: “[Why do I continue to train and compete in biathlons?] Because to me it’s fun even when the training is tough and I’m struggling with a new drill, I still love it. I love working towards goals and being challenged. The best bit though is the people I meet in the sport, here at home and overseas. Also when I shoot clean!”.
Besides his school studies, Cagney has made biathlon training his utmost priority in order to further perfect his stamina, shooting position and ability to stay calm and lower his heart rate while under pressure, as well as improve his speed on skis and cease overthinking.
Cagney says: “I train six days per week (the seventh is a recovery day), on and off the snow. My personal trainer, Val Burke, has helped me a lot to improve my strength and cardio and helps me plan my weekly training schedule. I’m also working with a new ski and biathlon coach at Snow Farm NZ this season, Peter Konupek from Slovakia.”
Cagney believes athletics has given him transferable skills, such as good time management, speed and focus, that he can apply to his schoolwork, and believes commitment, determination, respect and appreciation for the sport are the main qualities that make a good biathlete.
In the immediate future Angus is hoping to represent New Zealand in the Youth Winter Olympics 2020 in Switzerland next January.