January 23, 2014

Olympic Journey

What a blur the first part of this Olympic season has been! In short, December didn't go as well as I had hoped, though there were some bright spots in the form of our two 8th place relay finishes!  In the end, I had to go to the final stage of U.S. Olympic Trials at the IBU Cup in Ridnaun, Italy just after Christmas.  Here's a quick run-down...
Over Christmas I had the chance to ski at my home ski area - Bogus Basin in Boise, Idaho. photo: Zachary Hall
First, I have to start by saying that I haven't raced at the IBU Cup since Olympic Trials in 2010.  Four years later, I was nervous trying to make the 2014 team.  There were lots of things for me to remember, like testing my skis without the help of our excellent technicians.  But there was also the comfort of being on a slightly smaller stage, and the chance to have some good, confidence-building results.  There were four races (two weekends of IBU Cups) that were to be part of trials.  The first weekend was two sprint races, and the second an individual and a sprint.  The day before the first race it started snowing, well, dumping really.  The snow continued through the night and into the next day.  All told, we must have received a couple feet of snow, so needless to say, race conditions were crazy.  You could barely see on the downhills, lots of racers fell, and there were even a couple broken rifles.  I was nervous, especially given the challenging conditions, but was proud of myself for sticking to my routine and executing a solid race.  The next day was calm and fast, and I put together a great race, finishing as the top American in 9th place.  It was reassuring to have such a good result and from there the nerves subsided and I was able to focus just on racing like usual.

Racing in Ridnaun.  photo: Detlef Eckert
It wasn't all stress and racing though.  There was a torchlight parade to a mine near the venue where we were able to take a nighttime tour and then enjoyed a small party outside the bar near the mine.  The weather was also beautiful.  While our teammates were dealing with fog and rain and less-than-ideal conditions on the World Cup in Oberhof and Ruhpolding, we enjoyed lots of blue sky and sunshine after that first snowy race.

Torch parade! photo: Hannah Dreissigacker
Beautiful ski in Ridnaun as the sun goes down.
The second and final weekend of racing started off with a tough individual.  I didn't have my best race, not skiing aggressively enough and not shooting as well as I had hoped.  However, I was able to rebound with a solid result in Sunday's sprint and put myself in a comfortable position on the points list.

I'm looking forward to seeing these five rings all over the place again!
I've seen myself on the 2014 Olympic Team almost since leaving Vancouver in 2010.  Getting here, though, hasn't been easy or certain.  I've had my share of ups and downs, but that only makes finally being able to once again say I'm an Olympian (a two-time Olympian!) that much more exciting.  I'm really looking forward to competing in Sochi, and couldn't ask for a better team to share this experience with!

These girls! Two 8th place relay results and all-around awesome teammates...on to Sochi!  photo: Nordic Focus