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Archive for May, 2013

Olympic Dreams

The New Year’s holiday falls on May 1st for Nordic athletes. We are almost two months into preparations for the winter ahead.
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Snowy mountain biking with teammate Hannah.

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A perfect skiing day during a National Team camp in Bend, Oregon in May.

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Shooting during a June rollerski time trial at the team’s headquarters in Lake Placid, NY. The roller loop at the range was expanded last fall giving us twice as much terrain for “combo” training (shooting with rollerskiing).

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And of course balancing out all the biathlon training with a variety of spring work projects back home in Craftsbury, VT.

Even though, I am following a very similar training plan and camp schedule as in past years, this year feels noticeably different. This is a special year because it is an Olympic year. The next Winter Olympic Games will be held in February in Sochi, Russia. Last winter, I met US Biathlon’s prequalification standards for the Olympic Team (two top 15s in World Cup racing). I am psyched about the year to come- it will be filled with unique challenges and opportunities. I have not yet competed at an Olympics, but my coaches and our team psychologist claim that the Olympics feel unlike any other event, even World Championships. They have more hype and media coverage and they represent, among other things, a lifetime of dreams. Part of my preparation as an athlete this year is to figure out how to deal with these added dimensions. I got a taste of this already in April:

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Hollywood! I was invited to LA along with my teammates Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey for a media day put on by NBC and the US Olympic Committee. (Photo credit: Linda Jager). We joined athletes representing a variety of winter sports for a day of TV interviews and photo shoots in preparation for next winter’s Olympic coverage. I don’t think I have ever talked so much in one day before! It was neat to see how TV and movie sets work behind the scenes, but I felt very much out of my natural element surrounded by make-up artists and spotlights. It was a valuable experience for several reasons. More than anything, I think the trip to LA made me realize that the Olympics and associated hype is not something I can just tip toe around this year.

I had wanted to tip toe around it. Approaching a race as a high profile athlete is a very different experience than being an underdog. I admire the underdogs and I feel comfortable in that role. My biggest athletic breakthroughs have come when I have been able to “sneak up” on success; quietly putting in the work but flying under the radar. However, racing doesn’t always let you do that. Any Olympic hopeful is going to be a high profile athlete, at least for a few weeks. Part of the fun and challenge of this year is embracing that. As one of my teammates advised me earlier this year, “you’ve just got to own it.” Already this spring and summer, the Olympics have been coming up in conversations several times every day- with my team, with friends, with family, with curious friends of friends, and sometimes reporters. I love talking about biathlon and describing it to people not familiar with it. However, for most of us athletes, it is a strange experience to deal with this sudden spike of interest. We still enjoy just being ourselves sometimes and having interests and friends not related to our sport.

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For example, on my way to Hollywood, I stopped by my friend Jenny’s home and reconnected with my ecology interests. I learned how to harvest honey and capture a swarm of escaped bees (they are in the box.)

The Olympics have been a dream of mine since a very young age. I grew up in a skiing family. My parents met while racing for the University of Vermont cross country ski team and my father, Stan, competed in the 1976 Innsbruck and 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. He has been a lifelong role model for me and has given me some great advice over the years. Read more about my father’s influence in this recent Team USA article

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My father after running a leg of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Torch Relay through his hometown of Brattleboro, VT. Our family went down to cheer him on.

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My brothers and I were taught to ski in our backyard as soon as we could walk. By the time I was five, I was entering Bill Koch youth “lollipop” races, so named because every participant was awarded a lollipop at the finish.

I grew up in the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club with an awesome group of kids. We did all sorts of fun outdoors adventures. Our competitiveness with each other pushed us all to become better athletes.
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Pictured above are the Craftsbury juniors competing in Quebec in 2000. Can any of you Craftsbury folks pick out 5 current Green Racing Project members or Outdoor Center staff?

I went through my first Olympic trials in 2010, and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. As an athlete, it can be a little scary to set high goals for yourself, goals that you might not be able to reach. I struggled with all sorts of expectations. Many were self imposed, several were external. I badly wanted the chance to compete in Vancouver. My goal for 2010 was similiar to my goal this time around: I’m not interested in simply making the Olympic team, my goal is to make the team and then perform my best there. Before Vancouver, we had a large team of women vying for a few spots, and even though we were all on good terms and respectful of each other, I could feel extra tension and pressure during the months beforehand. During the final trials, I didn’t make the cut. I was still a very inexperienced biathlete, and despite believing in myself, despite having the support of family and friends, and despite working hard, I didn’t achieve my goals in 2010. In a lot of ways, I wasn’t ready yet. I believe this year will be different.

We are going to have a very special team this year. The other biathlete hopefuls for Team USA are managing similar Olympic-year pressures and expectations. They have also spent several years committing 100% of their time, energy and resources towards becoming the best biathletes they can. Everybody on the national team wants not only to go to Sochi but also to perform their best there. That is why US Biathlon’s results have been on an upward trajectory the last few years- Tim took home a historic silver medal at the 2013 World Championships and our relay results climb closer to the podium every year.
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Our women’s relay team achieved a top ten finish in 2013 and we know we are still capable of more. To do this, we need every individual performing at their highest potential. We push each other in practice all year long in order to bring out each individual’s best, and we know we must be there for each other during this challenging but exciting year. We are a strong team.

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