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Teessider Jackson's delight at Olympics.

STOCKTON biathlete Lee Jackson admitted his Winter Olympic debut couldn't have gone more to plan after matching his personal best in the men's 10km sprint.

The 28-year-old was the 23rd athlete of 87 out of the blocks at the Whistler Olympic Park, crossing the finish line a valiant 55th in a time of 27:18.10.

Jackson incurred just two shooting penalties during his run with his top 60 finish -his first for over two years -good enough to qualify him for tomorrow's men's 12.5km pursuit.

The last time Jackson finished 55th in the 10km sprint was during a World Cup race in Finland in December 2007 and the Stockton skier toasted a job well done in Whistler.

"My shooting could have been a bit better but I made the top 60 and qualified for the race in two days time which I am happy about," said Jackson, who serves as a Lance Corporal with the 2nd Battalion, Two Rifles.

"We knew a top result would be around 40th and taking into account penalties we knew it would be close.

"Fifty-fifth is an equal personal best for me and with two penalties it was a good race and I am very happy.

"My shooting can be better going into the next race but it will be exciting to see how it all works out. There is some good competition in and around me and hopefully I can move up a couple of places."

Jackson was handed the luck of the draw after setting off in the first group of 33, with the three groups following being severely hampered by heavy rain and then snow in Whistler.

All three medallists came from Jackson's opening group, with France's Vincent Jay taking gold and Emil Hegle Svendsen and Jakov Fak claiming silver and bronze respectively. And Jackson -who narrowly missed out on making his Olympic debut four years ago in Turin to Tom Clemens -admitted the weather played a big role in his success.

"I got caught in the rain coming off the first shoot and I was hoping that it didn't start snowing until I finished," he added.

"But then it did and that slowed the guys behind me. I lost a bit of time but I had an early start number and the rest of the guys at the back were affected by the snowy conditions a bit more.

"That played into the hands of those in the early group, which included me, so I was quite fortunate with the weather."

Britain's David King and Stacey Kemp delivered a season's best performance in the short programme of the figure skating pairs competition. Britain's King, 25, and Kemp, 21, beat their season's best of 45.26 with a score of 48.28 to lie in 16th place going into the free programme.

* Lloyds TSB, proud partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and supporter of Team GB on their journey to Vancouver 2010. Visit LloydsTSB.com/London2012
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Feb 15, 2010
Words:498
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