Focussed on his target
8 February 2006
Few people have had a harder, longer or more lonely journey to Torino than Australia's only biathlete Cameron Morton.
His ambition to represent his country at an Olympic Games was fired 18 years ago by the experience of watching Andrew Paul, Australia's first Olympic biathlon representative, compete in the Calgary Games.
"Andrew was the local Lake Mountain ski patroller, and at the age of 14, I followed everywhere," says Morton.
"He became my first coach and mentor."
Within two years, Morton had become the number one ranked junior and senior biathlete in the country, as well as the number one junior cross country skier for his age nationally.
At the 1994 World Junior Championships he finished 27th, recording the eighth fastest ski time from more than 100 competitors.
But despite this promising performance he missed Olympic team selection in both 1992 and 1994, while still a junior.
"I found making the transition from juniors to seniors at world level a huge challenge," Morton says.
In 1995 he returned from Europe physically drained, nearly $10,000 in debt, home-sick and with little success to show.
"My girlfriend and now current wife Selina bailed me out of financial trouble, and then my life then changed enormously when she became pregnant with our first child."
With new responsibilities, Morton walked away from biathlon competition, and undertook a Sports Coaching and Administration degree, working three part time jobs as a tennis coach, ski coach and fitness instructor to support his new family.
In 1998 he did get to an Olympic Games, but not as an athlete, as coach to Kerryn Rim. In 2000 he began a career as a primary teacher in north east Victoria, and a year later decided to revive his Olympic ambitions.
"I took four weeks leave from my position as Head Teacher of Harrietville Primary School to race Biathlon World Cups, in a quest to qualify for Salt Lake City ."
"I missed selection and a top 50% World Cup ranking by just one shot when I finished 67th out of 115 competitors in Orsblie, Slovakia."
"My non-selection left me devastated, and I was unable to bring myself to even watch any of the Olympics on TV."
"I vowed resolutely again to set a four year plan and strive for Torino. I knew that the journey would be extremely tough and challenging, especially with fulltime work and two young children, but with my wife and family's encouragement I was determined to again pursue my Olympic dream."
For the last two years, that plan has involved at various times managing a ski lodge at Mt Hotham, training at 5:00am in the morning then driving down to Harrietville for his teaching and principal duties, devoting school vacations to World Cup competitions and, for the past six months, taking leave from his job, his wife and his young children to live and compete full time in Europe.
"I've certainly put everything on the line to be here and represent Australia at the Games," says Morton, now 31 years old.
"It's taken a long time, too. It's something that's been there, it's something that I think is my destiny to do so I've put total commitment into it."
"It's been an incredible ask. In the last year and a half it's been one year away from home which is a long time." And now here is here, what is he looking to do?
"Biathlon is a special event. It's extremely difficult so I'm looking at the process goals of skiing and shooting to the best of my ability."
"If that's achieved with 90 per cent accuracy in the shooting in my pet event, the distance event, a top 30 is realistic, and then anything is possible if you have a fantastic day."
Barry White / AOC