All of a sudden we were in Sapporo, Japan for the final World Cup of this season. The first race there for me may have been my best in Japan. A 10km Free, in which I was skiing technically very well. For the most part, I had a good snap to my movements and could get the power down into the snow. Had the opportunity to ski with some of the Visually Impaired Skiers and was able to stick with them. Though in the end, I had to turn on the burners and charge to the finish line. If the 0.4seconds in PyeongChang hurt, it was nothing to being fourth yet again but this time by only 0.1seconds. That was consecutive races (20km total distance) finishing in fourth on both occasions by a combined time of 0.5seconds. Should have worked on my finish line lunges!
The final Cross Country race of the season a 5km Classic. I wasn’t happy with my race. Again my mindset was ready for that race or on how to ski that race. Somehow I was able to finish fourth (yes, my third, fourth place in a row). With that, the Cross Country season was over. For me that had been an impressive season, there are some things I need to work on over the summer for sure. Lessons learned both good and bad. Most importantly my confidence in my skiing came a long way this season. I ended up ranked sixth overall, and that is with missing quite a few races.
The final two races of the Biathlon season were all that remained. I had to continue focusing on what had worked the rest of the season to finish up the year. That was what I did. I would miss a single shot in each of the races. Along with fantastic skis and sheer effort, I kept myself in the hunt. As it would with every World Cup Biathlon race this season, I finished second in both races (just glad I wasn’t fourth again). The only time I was not second in a Biathlon race this season was at World Championships. Skipping the Ukrainian World Cup, I had three fewer races than everyone else in the hunt for the overall. My consistency over the rest of the year paid off as I earned the final points that allowed me to overtake second place in the overall. It is the first time since March 2013 that I’ve been on the Overall podium.
Consistency was there throughout the season. In Cross Country, I was never better than third but never worse than fifth either. That includes classic and freestyle; Sprints, 5km, 10km and 20km races. I also consistently was competing in more Cross Country races than I had in the past. The biggest change for me this season was my consistency with the rifle on the range. Looking over the results of the past few years; my shooting wasn’t where it needed to be. I believe too many ‘not great’ habits had been engraved into my shooting recently. In the spring I had to break it totally down to the very basics and rebuild it using only the best habits. It has been a real eye-opener this year learning and understanding shooting in a more philosophical way. The new approaches I took in my shooting showed they work. I took 140 shots in competition this season with only five misses. The strangely consistent fact of the year was that I was never lower than second place in any IPC Biathlon race. That is a fact I’m proud of!
Let the real excitement begin! In 326 days the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, Korea will officially be declared open. This upcoming year is one of the most critical times in preparation for success at the Games. But by no means do I forget the years that have come before. The hours spent training; the efforts put into competition. The blood, sweat, and tears that have all been a part of getting to this moment. The heartbreak, setbacks or injuries. The smiles, the joys, the memories or the roars of rare emotion. They all play their part in what comes next. Every moment so far has been a lesson learned that will make me better. To quote Abraham Lincoln “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Success does not happen unless you prepare for it. And I plan to!
I hope you are ready because I am…!
Mark


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