SOCHI 2014

Journey Of Champions: Steve Mesler Chats With Billy Demong

By Steve Mesler, 2010 Four-Man Bobsled Olympic Champion | May 29, 2013, 1 p.m. (ET)
 
Billy Demong in action during the men's Nordic combined HS106
on Feb. 22, 2013 in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

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The other thing that gets lost on me… In August of 2009, I was well aware that come February 27, 2010, that was it for me. I knew what I was super hungry for.

It was the thing that we wanted because we couldn’t have it. And now I look back and it was an amazing experience and I love that little thing (my medal). But as you know, it kind of becomes normal. The medal becomes your normal. You thought you'd have it on this anti-gravity thing...

And now it's in a felt sack in my backpack!

Exactly. How do you now flip the switch? What's the difference in the motivation now?

I think, as you know, afterwards you realize it was more about the process and the accomplishment than any piece of hardware. So it excites me again, especially being a little bit hungry for success.

It excites me to think about how hard I'm going to work this summer. Because it's finite as well, it's not like I’m staring down the barrel of five or 10 more years. There’s not some unexpected amount of time of having to get up and train every day.

It's like, wow - I'm going to cherish the last nine months of this. Being able to prioritize getting up, getting a good night’s sleep, eating the right food, training hard. As silly as it sounds, for the first time in my whole career I'm really thinking this is a time to really enjoy the fact that this is all I have to do.

It gives me chills to hear you say that because that's exactly what my last summer was like. My last summer, summer of '09, I remember coming home and thinking, I'm so tired, this is awesome. It was the most fun I've ever had training in my entire life.

I feel like our whole program is on that same page, too. Not that anyone else is looking at retirement, but everyone is super hungry.

From young guys, to old guys, to coaches – we’re trying to not just be as good as we were – we’re trying to be better. We're trying to do it differently.

At the ski team we've got the entire sports science department. We've got great interns at our disposal. For example, we just got these carbon fiber oxygen tanks and they hold an hour's worth of sea level air. We skied up the Olympic Park road with those things on.

Then the interns would pick us up, record our lactate, then drive us back down. We did that twice and basically it was like a total smashfest (Olympian speak for destroying yourself in an awesome way during training) and everyone was super stoked about it.

We believe in what we are. We believe in what we do. Living at altitude, training at altitude, doing extra intensity training with supplemental oxygen, and getting training camps in down low like in Chula Vista or Lake Placid.

But really, it's like you said, I'm going to cherish every day for the next nine months and then probably baby number two is going to come along – and I'll be wishing I could prioritize going for a nice, long, bike ride!

So that was it – that’s what interested me – advantages, disadvantages, motivation. That was all great stuff and thanks for some amazing answers.

Now for the questions everyone gets... every athlete that I interview for Journey Of Champions presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance answers these two questions.

You ready?

Yup!

What does success look like to you?

For me, success is having a plan that starts with setting a scary goal that is attainable, it's plausible, but it's not easy. And then working backwards to build a roadmap of daily and short term goals that get you to that success.

After that, being able to follow through on that plan and execute and attaining that newer, higher-level goal.

Because in my career that goal has been to get back on to the World Cup, or to get a top -10, or to get a medal – they’re all scary goals at the time and then they become part of the roadmap to get to the higher goal.

But the achievement of the smaller goals is what allows you to move forward and keep setting higher and higher goals.

That’s a pretty awesome response.

So then, what are the three most important factors for an athlete to reach that kind of success?

Consistency, persistence, and self-belief.

Self-belief – what’s the difference between self-belief and self-confidence?

I think it's about having that knowledge or that belief system that what you're doing is the right thing even on days that you're not getting better today. You can't be good every day if you're going to be great.

Let's say you're trying to build up strength – you’re going to have to go where you're lifting more reps to build a base, to be able to do more quality work at some point. So usually when you start working out again or you start a new phase you're kind of breaking yourself down to a point where you're not as good as you were two weeks ago. But four weeks from now, if you execute the plan, you're going to be better.

So having belief in the system, belief in your coaches, and belief in yourself. Knowing that what you do may not be the same as everybody else around you, but that self-belief in that what you're doing is what is best for you is really important.

Because at the end of the day when you start down the track, or down a jump, or onto a course it's that belief that will carry you to the finish line with confidence and not questioning whether you should have done something different.

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