Today is the first World Cup race ever in Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. This does not feel like a normal World Cup. Everybody, from my teammates to the U.S. Ski Team staff to the media and the officials are talking about next year. I’ve never been to an Olympics, but it is clear that they are unlike any other ski race I’ve ever done. They are more important to my career and they receive more attention, by a factor of ten, than any other ski race, including the World Championships. This year’s World Championships are only three weeks away and still the focus is on the Olympics. This extreme emphasis on the Olympics may not be in every country, but it certainly is when you’re from the U.S.
I have found it hard to focus on the Olympics. First, I know that when the gun goes off to start the Olympic Pursuit (the first Olympic race) next year I won’t be able to try any harder than I have in every other race I’ve ever done. In fact, it will be imperative that I stay relaxed and make it as easy as possible for the majority of the race. Second, every race (and workout for that matter) that I do is part of the process of improving and working towards being the best skier in the World. I believe this will be true even when I’m a contender to win an Olympic gold medal or the overall World Cup. It will probably be true even in the last race I ever do. Third, I have some major goals this season; a good result in this weekend’s World Cup will help me accomplish those goals.
I have made some big improvements in many aspects of my skiing this season. I have done a much better job of consistently executing my plan in races. In the past, I have often taken myself out of a race, mentally, even when my form was really good. This year I have consistently focused on and achieved good execution. The only thing towards having a good result that I can control on race day is execution. I have also made big improvements in some aspects of my technique. I am a better flat and gradual downhill skater than I ever have been in the past. My double pole has become more powerful and relaxed.
This season has also highlighted some major aspects of my skiing that need vast improvement. I need to stay on my feet in technical sections of a course. (Keeping my hands in front of my body is one way I can stay balanced.) I need to learn a good technique for skiing in very soft snow. I also need to learn how to pace and execute short distance races (3-10 kilometers).
The National Nordic Foundation (NNF) is a huge part of my path towards becoming the best skier in the World. They help fund the crucial steps towards the Olympics like training camps, World Cup competitions and the World Championships. They allow me to focus on training and racing and not worry about how I’m going to pay to get there. Thanks to NNF and the entire U.S. cross country community for the incredible support!