Hāwea’s biathlon athlete and cross-country skier Campbell Wright, 17, had the honour of carrying the flag for the New Zealand team in the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games on Friday morning. The youngster was named flag bearer by Chef de Mission Jesse Teat at a recent team function well attended by athletes and their families in Lausanne. Teat described it as a “pleasure” to present Wright with the flag, saying “Campbell is an enthusiastic and determined young athlete whose actions epitomise what it means to be a member of the New Zealand Team.”
Wright moved to Wānaka at age eight where he developed a love for cross country skiing. He now studies at Mount Aspiring College, but still finds the time to practise and compete professionally, saying “it doesn’t really clash, there’s plenty of hours in a day for both things.” Although his sporting calendar does clash with his NCEA exams, the 17 year-old manages to get around the hurdle by taking his practice exams as his real ones. Teat says of Wright, that “as well as being a leader in his sport he’s dedicated to his studies and involved in his community.”
Since 2016 Wright has been named ‘Snow Sports New Zealand Cross Country Skier of the Year’ every year. In 2017 he also began competing in biathlon and last week won the Italian Biathlon Nationals in the U19 category. Biathlon is a winter sport that combines rifle shooting and cross-country skiing and is incredibly physically demanding, requiring a level of fitness that brings your heart rate down to shoot accurately after skiing at maximum speed for between 2.5km to 5km. The young athlete is coached by Luca Boromilili and trains at the Snow Farm in Cardrona alongside other Mt Aspiring students.
In October, Wright travelled to Livigno, Italy, to practice with Boromilili where he dry trained on land until the snow was skiable. His race results in Europe this summer have been incredible, with his results the best a New Zealand junior has ever achieved in both biathlon and cross country.
Now Wright is competing in the Winter Youth Olympics where 2,000 athletes from 73 countries come together to compete. He’s been training hard for this and the work has paid off. The opening ceremony saw the young athlete carry the flag for his country, who did a spectacular job. The NZ team is made up of 20 athletes, all aged between 14-18, so Wright was chosen out of high calibre competition.
Wright told the Wānaka Sun: “It was super cool to carry the flag, especially being a biathlete because in NZ it’s not the biggest of sports in comparison to free skiing, so it was definitely one to remember.”
Since the flag bearing, Wright has gone from success to success in the games. Sunday saw the athlete compete in a field of 99 athletes to claim a sixth-place finish in the 12.5km biathlon. On Tuesday night Wright nabbed an incredible 4th place in the 7.5km biathlon. He’s “absolutely loving” the Youth Olympics, and says his placing was “so cool” and “good to see that I can be competitive with the Europeans.” He’s still got the cross country skiing to go and is excited to see how the race will go. “I’m feeling focused and ready for the next race coming up,” he said.
As for what’s next after the games, Wright plans a well-deserved week to “chill out” and return to school. This certainly won’t be the last we hear of the young Hāwea athlete.