After a couple of crazy days in Hochfilzen I was woken up this morning by a knock on the door by the WCH doping control staff and whisked off to the stadium for a random blood draw. This is nothing new, but it gave me a chance to sit in the car as I rode up to the stadium, and reflect on the last 48 hours. It’s a good feeling when decades of training, and a preparation plan that started in May, pay off. After a fourth place in Saturday’s WCH Sprint competition, I found myself fighting for the podium again in yesterday’s Pursuit. And although I didn’t have quite enough in “the tank” to hold onto a podium in the last loop, I’m proud to have executed my race plan and to have completed two solid races to open World Championships 2017. A 4th and 6th place represent the two best results ever for me in any World Championship or Olympic competition… and it took me some time to get here!
I started thinking about the first time I came to Hochfilzen, in 2000, for my second World Junior Championships. At that time, I was just starting to become competitive with the rest of the international field, and I came into World Champs with high hopes. As I drove through the early morning mist, seventeen years later, I thought about the fact that I have been at this crazy sport for quite a long time. And I thought about how many people have been with me on this journey for all or most of that time. I met our current High Performance Director, Bernd Eisenbichler, for the first time in Hochfilzen, seventeen years ago. At the time, he was just a hired hand; a German wax technician who knew skis, and knew how to make them fast. Since that time, we’ve grown and changed; our roles have evolved as well. But one thing has remained constant: we still love this sport! Now, seventeen years later, we find ourselves back at the same venue where we first met, along with a staff full of decades-long friends whom I’ve travelled all over the world with, and a field of competitors, some of whom were in that JWCH 2000 field so many years ago.
I don’t know why, but it strikes me that I’ve skied these tracks so many times over the years, the long gradual climb up to the stadium, the tuck through the outgoing tunnel, and the harrowing righthand downhill corner into the final tunnel. I may be a little bit older now, but I still feel the same excitement when I step onto a biathlon course, when I see the US Biathlon Staff working their asses off for that elusive podium, and when I here the start clock counting down the seconds. What a great sport!
So, thank you to all of my supporters; family, friends, fans, sponsors, and journalists who have taken this journey with me. Here’s to a successful second half of 2017 World Champs, and a good final leg of the 2016/17 WC Season after that!