So began the other part of racing at the Paralympics; the media and ceremonial events. The mix zone was relatively quick. There were several short and sweet interviews with different broadcasting nations. First up was CBC, followed by broadcasts from Sweden, Italy and the host Russia. The Swedish interview was interesting; they were well informed setting the basis of the interview on how I won the World Championship title in this very race a year before in Sweden. They asked whether being the World Champion, I was disappointed with finishing second today. I replied that in no way was I disappointed with a Silver. I made a mistake in missing, leaving the door open for anyone to take the race, on that day only one person got a toe in the door, taking the win. Being on such a high after the race and the medal, my next challenge was bringing everything back to focus on the next task at hand- the Biathlon Middle distance race.
After the two days off from racing it was time to race again. I was hungry to put in the performance and take that extra step to the top of the podium. My focus was on what I needed to do; shoot clean and race according to my race plan. My biggest concern was starting too slow or way too fast. The first 400 metres were great then I tried to pass another skier. As I did that I caught my ski in the tracks, taking myself down. I got up quickly and refocused on getting back on plan. I was scrambling a little to make up time. It happened early which would allow me the best chance to ski myself back into contention. In the splits I was way off pace from the start and had to climb my way up through the results. Perhaps a little frazzled from the fall and skiing to make up time already, I would miss a shot in the first bout. It wasn’t looking good. That hunger drove me to push past it all and find that race that I wanted to have. I was able to rectify most of the damage by the fourth lap of skiing. I found myself in a battle for fourth. The leaders are a ways ahead, but it’s biathlon after all. The three leaders added multiple misses in the final bout of shooting. I had gone clean since the first bout. In a matter on moments I was right in the middle of the battle for second place. With every muscle weighing heavy I push for any last bit of effort I could muster. I would defend my position for third but could not quite catch my good friend Nils-Erik Ulset for second. The winner had a fair lead but it was only six seconds separating Nils-Erik and I. From the heavy fog I emerged as a Bronze medalist. At times the fog was so thick it was difficult to see the targets. Instead of aiming for a target it was rather aiming for the center of the dark blur. I had started the race hunting for a race that could not be beaten. But soon found myself hunting just to have a reasonable result. I wasn’t disappointed with the race; I was disappointed I made two silly mistakes. Having my race plan and being able to come back and focus on it after the fall and again after the missed shot was what kept me in that race. I made mistakes but in the end I was able to ski to the third fastest time of the day. That is what I’m proud of; I never gave up and fought from start to finish. Because of that I earned a second medal in Sochi, a Bronze. Now more than ever I was hungry for that golden race.
The next morning was not the turning point I wanted at the Games. Waking up, I was not feeling well. Since I arrived in Sochi I had been fighting something. Athletes are always walking the razor’s edge of getting sick. I got something in Italy, fought it off for the first week in Sochi. It’s one of the worst feelings there is. To know everything was coming together. I was in the shape of my life, our techs had the snow dialed in and I was in an amazing head space. The confidence and excitement from the two previous races was there as well. I did everything I could to stay healthy but the body can only fight for so long under the demands that I ask of it. On my way to Sochi, I have skied over unthinkable distances, climbed mountains and it’s a microscopic virus that takes me down. I’m sure there is a Chinese proverb for that. My coach and I had already decided to scratch from the Cross Country Sprints; the final three races would be tough enough. I used the next two days to try and get healthy enough to race. The day before the final Biathlon race, I felt a little better but nowhere near 100%. The decision to take me out of the Relay was made. That wasn’t a fun decision to hear, I wanted to be there and help my team. It is rare for us race as a team, and I wanted to be a part of that. I was not healthy enough to do that, starting the next day’s Biathlon race was still up in the air.
Race day I woke up feeling ok. I made the call to go ahead and race. I could only do what I could. Focus on controlling what I had control of. Which was shooting clean and following my race plan to the best of my ability. I couldn’t ask for anything more nor did I know what to expect. I struggled again on the range in my first bout, missing a shot. I knew how to handle it; it had done it a couple times this week. An early miss doesn’t mean you’re out of the race. I continued on and fought my way through the next three laps before stopping in the range for my last bout of shooting. I’m not sure how but I threw one of the shots wide, really wide. My second miss. I had no idea where I was or how any of the others were doing. I was happy I did the race but disappointed on how it went. Maybe I hoped for too much. I could control the shooting and I missed two there, added a minute for each, time I couldn’t afford to add. I would end up eleventh. In the moment I was pretty down about that race. I took a few moments to think and go over where I stood. I did the best I could with what I had. I could have not even started the race that day. I know that I would have been more disappointed about that. Then I thought back to my room and what lay in the drawer. I had to smile! I had two Paralympic medals, two of the greatest races I have ever raced. From there my focused turned to getting healthier, because I did not want that to be my last race here in Sochi.
After watching some thrilling Relay races from my room, the last day of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games was here. The Cross Country 10km. I was feeling a lot better and ready to put anything I had left on the line. The weather seemed to beckon one final grand day of racing. The course was solid ice when I first stepped on it in the morning. Under a beaming sun it only broke down a little bit before the first racers took to the trails. I had to start fast and see how long I could how on. That was what I did, maybe too hard. One of the leaders after the first lap and a bit I tried to push on. I could feel that there wasn’t much more. At one point, Brian passed me, knowing that I could not ask for a better ride to stay with I thought about jumping on his wheel and following. Feeling how my body was reacting I knew I would blow up completely if I tried sticking with Brian. That was a hard and fast 10km course. I was extremely pleased how I skied the race. Mentally, I skied the race according to my plan. Areas I wanted to focus on I did, skiing some sections very well. Physically, the speed and comfort I had in the first lap and a half surprised me. Not being completely healthy I couldn’t expect that to stay. I was hurting but still pushing at the end. I was satisfied with that race and happy to end the Games on that note. Which is strange because I would finish eleventh, the same result as I had in the Biathlon Long. The difference being how I felt about the races. The eleventh in the Cross Country was a solid result for me. I did what I could. I felt I did everything right I simply didn’t have the body to go as fast as the best guys.