What a whirlwind last two days! First, the 11th edition of the Paralympic Winter Games have official begun. The first races of the Games took place complete with excitement and thrilling moments. I stayed up at the Village during the Opening Ceremonies, watching the parade of Nations but running out of time to watch the rest of the show. I’ll save that for later, I heard it was a great spectacle and I plan to eventually watch it. I was in my routine, getting ready for bed, read a chapter or two and then going to sleep. I fell asleep also right away and was up just before my alarm at 8. Race Day! After working towards this day for almost four years it had finally come and it was time to prove what I’ve learned these past few years.
First up for me was the Biathlon Short Distance race. The sun was shining, but more importantly the tracks were firm from a combination of salting and temperatures just freezing. I smiled when I first skied on the trails. This was what I was hoping for. When I arrived at the site, one of the first things I had to do was test my skis. Along with my coach I tested four pairs of skis and from those four selected my race skis. From there I continued to warming up, skiing the course. Inspecting how the course was set up, where the fastest lines would be and how to approach the corners. Then with about 40 minutes before my race start I made my way to the range and zeroed. Zeroing is where I adjust my rifle to the conditions for that day, based on wind and sunlight. It wasn’t my best zero but I was confident enough in it that I was ready. I then went to the start area; I remained focused on what I needed to do. Clean shooting and follow my race plan on the course.
I was the second starter, I position that I was looking forward to. I would do my race and set the pace and see if someone could better it. Quickly enough I was on the start line ready to go. I had a great start. Exactly to plan, I was right where I wanted to be. It was a hard start but I felt comfortable with it. Came into the range, settled in and took the first shot, hit! Repeated this another three times. Then came the last shot, I knew I needed to hit this. I thought about and had it. I remember thinking I got it! Pulled the trigger but I twitched and missed the shot just wide. It was close, shaking the paddle but it didn’t go up, a miss. I got up and went to the penalty loop. I hadn’t skied the penalty loop before. As I entered I realized it was perfect for me because it skis counter-clockwise which allows me to use my power and pole. That simple thought and fact was what brought me back into the race.
I attacked the second lap, following the plan. Made my way around the course and back to the range. I could be right back in this race with a clean bout of shooting. Brought my focus in and on each individual shot. I got it, all five targets. I got out of there in a hurry. I had a renewed energy and went for everything I had. Being one of the first starters and now the leader on the course, my coach couldn’t give me any info. He knew it was close, he was yelling for me to tempo up.
I crossed the finish line knowing I had done everything I could have done. The skiing was incredible, the skis were floating but I left the door open with that miss. I went in the tent to change, but waiting was fraying my nerves so I told the team staff with me to turn off the radio. Finally my coach came into the tent and I asked if he knew the result. He smiles and says the winner then me then the third place finisher. Then he says that we are separated by 1.4seconds. I was second my 0.7seconds. That was unthinkably close.
I had won a Paralympic medal. It truly hasn’t sunk in yet. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow evening for the medal ceremony get receive my medal and have the weight of the medal bring home to realization of what I’ve accomplished.