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Outdoor Sport (3/7/13)

 
Skiing with my friend and cross-country skier Simi Hamilton

It’s easy to feel lucky or unlucky in life and as such to place blame on extraneous factors.  After winning a bronze medal in the team event at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, I felt the momentum building and wanted to carry it into our final events.  The morning of the final individual event I felt great – mentally aware and acute, physically strong, and as pain-free as a child.  It was going to be a great day…

I was the 29th skier to ski jump in the round and I executed my best jump of my year.  I turned to look and I was in third place!  With only 25 skiers left to go, I felt that I was going to put myself into contention in the cross-country race for my first individual podium of the season.   I think the smile showed as I walked past media, friends and family and they asked questions thinking the same good thoughts as I.  Then five skiers later, the wind changed.  Massively.

It changed from 1 meter per second of tailwind to 4 meters per second of headwind.  In the aviation world this would change the takeoff speed of a 737 by 11 mph!  The tone of the event went from competitors trying to overcome the wind at their backs to nearly out-flying the hill.  There were almost two competitions, the first 35 guys and the last 20.

Don’t get me wrong, the event was far more exciting to watch after the wind changed.  The ABBA song “It’s Raining Men,” came to mind as I watched the final jumpers fly 450 feet down the hill.  Unfortunately, it took my hopes of a medal away.

Herein lies the confusing part: you want someone to blame, you want to feel as though it’s somehow not your fault.  You did everything right, right?

Having been on both sides of this equation I know the feeling well, but honestly many of the sports in the winter Olympics are outdoor events performed on snow and ice, where changing conditions affect the outcome.  In my career, I can find dozens of instances where this has happened but the one constant is that the best competitors win.  Yes, even when the favorite suffers misfortune, it is the person who keeps their mind in the game, who takes advantage of the situation and stays on task that stands on top at the end.  They were the best there was in that condition on that day.

So when my mind starts trying to find a way to rationalize disappointment, I remind myself that there is nobody to blame; there is no such thing as “bad luck” or “lucky,” merely that you do your best to make your own luck by training hard, staying in the moment and focusing on the task at hand and not the result.

There was nothing left to do but do some alpine skiing with good friends to clear my head, enjoy the final events and prepare to kill it in our final World Cups in Finland and Norway!

You can also follow my journey on Twitter.