SCOTT DIXON could be forgiven for thinking he’s the unluckiest athlete in Scotland.
Britain’s top biathlete has spent the past six months battling constant illness and injury, including a heart problem that remains unresolved.
And, on top of Dixon’s personal challenges, the British Biathlon Union is facing funding problems so severe they may cause the governing body to fold, leaving the Scot in limbo.
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Dixon’s ailments over the past year include tonsillitis and the norovirus.
But the most concerning of Dixon’s physical issues was a heart problem that occurred in the first race of the season and caused his heart rate to shoot up to 200 beats per minute mid-race, despite the fact he was standing stock still.
It would be enough to throw anyone’s performances off kilter and it certainly derailed the start of Dixon’s 2016/17 season.
However, despite the underlying uncertainly about the cause, Dixon remains remarkably sanguine about it all. “I don’t like saying that I’ve been unlucky but it has been really difficult spell for me,” the 22-year-old said.
“The heart thing really set me back and I’m getting more tests at the end of the season for it. It’s the second time it’s happened but it’s not too worrying because I’ve been told that I have a very healthy heart apart from a slight blockage somewhere.
"It’s frustrating, though. I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses but it did, at points, feel like the world was against me.”
Dixon is refusing to get despondent about his situation and he goes into the World Championships in Austria, which begin on Friday, in a positive state of mind having posted his best shooting performance ever in a World Cup in his last outing a few weeks ago.
A strong performance at the World Championships would also help Dixon progress towards his ultimate goal – qualification for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Due to the financial struggles of the British Biathlon Union, Dixon has been forced to chase his Olympic dream entirely unsupported.
Several years ago, he relocated to Lillehammer in Norway from his home in Aviemore and, since then, has done whatever it has taken to survive financially.
Tired of relying on other people though, Dixon has now decided to take things into his own hands and become proactive in an attempt to support himself. “I’ve made the decision not to get caught up in all the funding issues with the British Biathlon Union because it’s outwith my control and it becomes so draining,” he said.
“I decided to create a product to try to make some money to fund me. I have a half-sister and brother and I don’t see them much, so I thought it’d be nice to write a kids' book for them. I did some drawings for the book, too, and my sister painted them and people were really positive about it.
"So I decided to go for it and try to sell copies. I know it’s a bit crazy but I’ve got nothing to lose. And it’s good having a distraction from training.
"I love having something constructive to do and it’s great to be able to get away from the stress and pressure of competition.”
Dixon may be swimming against the tide in his quest for Olympic qualification but he has the best advice possible at his fingertips. The British No.1's father is a legend of biathlon – Mike Dixon, who represented GB at a record six Winter Olympic Games.
It is, admits Dixon, handy to have such good mentor. “My dad is full of knowledge and so it’s great to be able to speak to him about things,” he said.
“If a race has gone really well or really badly, I’ll chat to him which is so helpful because he’s always incredibly positive. That’s what made him such a great athlete. He has this unconditional positivity.
"It’s only when I’ve gotten older that I’ve begun to appreciate what he’s actually done in the sport and reflecting on that, I want to make him proud more than anything else.”
Were Dixon to make it to the Winter Olympics in 12 months' time, his father would be unquestionably proud.
It has been a long road for Dixon to reach this point and he is now within touching distance of qualification.
His selection for Team GB has only been made harder as a result of the recent governing body travails but the Scot remains confident that his efforts will, ultimately, be rewarded. “I still believe I can get to Pyeongchang,” he said.
“The odds have been completely against me so far but despite being kicked down a lot, I’m on the verge of achieving the qualification. So if I can have a good trimester then I really believe that it’s possible to get there.”