Thursday, February 27, 2014

Post Sochi Reflections for NNF

I wrote this article today for the National Nordic Foundation. You can see the original post on the NNF website HERE. Or, just read below. 

I have had writer's block for weeks now. It's hard to transform my experiences in Sochi into words. I feel like I won't be able to pay the experience justice.  Part of it is a feeling of being overwhelmed and the other part is being so incredibly tired that the other day I actually used the analogy of, "I feel as though a semi-truck ran over my face." 

The cumulative physical and emotional fatigue from the Games is more ingrained than I expected it to be and although I slept well on our mountain-top in the Endurance Village I have since taken some coma-worthy naps upon leaving Russia.  This says something because those that know me know that I don't nap. Ever. 

Going into Sochi there was undoubtedly a lot of pressure on the Cross Country team to bring home the first medal since 1972 and the second medal in Olympic history.  Leading up to the Games Kikkan proved time and time again that she is the best skate sprinter in the World and our women's 4x5k relay team has had a couple of podium performances in the past calendar year.  As Americans we're optimists by nature and we work incredibly hard. We wanted to bring home a medal, we wanted to make history. It just didn't happen. 

Our team's experience in Sochi demonstrated just how fickle a sport like Cross Country skiing truly is. When success is defined by medals, in order to bring one home it has to be literally the perfect storm. One must have a good body, good skis, good feelings, and good fortune. When one part of the equation is off or missing, results are magnified at the World Cup level and in a split second it's easy to fall from 1st to 18th or 29th to 47th. Maybe the snow was too soft for a powerful skier's style, perhaps there was a tiny tactical mistake. It's hard to boil it down to any one thing. 

When I asked Kikkan why she felt she was missing her top form she didn't truly know. When she asked our fellow competitor and friend from Germany, Steffie Bohler how she found her top form (during the Games) she didn't know either.  It's amazing to think how every competitor, from every country attempts to be at their best during the span of 17 Days that is the Olympics. In reality, some will nail it and others will miss their peak.  Someone who wins the Olympics might take a Gold Medal one weekend and the following weekend, be outside the World Cup points.  The uncertainty of sport is what keeps it exciting, it's what keeps us coming back for more.  

Lucky for us, Olympic performances are a small snapshot in any athlete's career, be it the most visible one. Despite the lack of a medal in Sochi our team has broken barrier after barrier this season.  There are many, many things to celebrate as a US Skier, a US Skiing Supporter, and a US Skiing fan.  Simi won a stage World Cup in Lenzerheide, Jessie finished 8th in the Sochi Skiathlon. When Kik didn't make it past  her skate sprint quarterfinal our teammate Sophie ("Sochi") Caldwell did, making it all the way to the A-Final before experiencing a tangle that took her out of medal contention.  

This weekend alone we'll have 15 different US Starters at the World Cup here in Lahti, Finland.  Simultaneously there are another 20 racing the OPA cups in Switzerland, Slovenia and Italy. The future is bright and it's an exciting time to be involved in our sport. 

As a team and as a ski community we are resilient by nature.  After all, we are endurance athletes.  If we fall short of our goals, we'll get up, dust ourselves off and try again. Thank you so much to everyone whose's supported us and continues to believe in us. Thank you to our coaches, techs and medical staff who work incredibly hard, day in and day out ensuring that we have the tools that we need to succeed. 

If skiing or Olympic Medals were easy everyone would be getting them, right?  While the hardware didn't happen in Sochi I have the utmost faith that it will happen.  In the meantime, let's continue to love the chase and be passionate about what we get to do everyday.  Luckily skiing is much more than Olympic medals and I'm proud of the journey we've lead and continue to lead. 

Time to go train. 


  1. Buongiorno Holly,

    Great recap and perspective!

    Brava Holly & Team
    Kathy & Bill from Polcenigo