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One Bite At A Time, Part I

John Coughlin and Caydee Denney in Russia
 A fan with a Caydee and John sign
John Coughlin and Caydee Denney in Russia
Caydee and me in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow 
John Coughlin and Caydee Denney Halloween
Trick or Treat! 
John Coughlin and Caydee Denney 
Our coach Dalilah Sappenfield with us at Nebelhorn
Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany

John Coughlin and Caydee Denney at the World Arena
Me and Caydee training at the Colorado Springs World
Arena Ice Hall, a newly designated Olympic Training Site

Hey Team USA fans!!! This is John Coughlin, coming at you live from Colorado Springs in the first of many installments of my "One Bite At A Time" blog. We'll get into the meaning of the title in a bit but first, I'll give you a quick rundown about me.

In our first season as a team, Caydee Denney and I became the 2012 U.S. pairs champions. We earned a silver medal at the ISU Four Continents Championships and represented the United States at the World Championships in Nice, France. We capped off last season by participating in the World Team Trophy event, which simulated the newly added team format event that will make its debut in Sochi. As I write this entry, Caydee and I are three international events in to our 2012-2013 campaign. I'm happy to say we have made positive strides together and have come home with a medal for the good ol' US of A at all three!

Now, to explain the title: That has been my approach to skating and to life, a kind of mantra if you will. It has helped me weather some storms and stay in the moment when things are going our way. As you flow through the ups and downs of a career as an athlete, you gain many things. Relationships, accolades, scars, and many memories are accumulated along the way. However, one attribute that is often minimized and rarely spoken of is perspective. There is a delicate balance between being afraid to fail, and being carefree and reckless. All athletes hope to come into this understanding while there is still sand left in their hour glass. Some know it is there, even preach it to the world but struggle to take their own advice. Others have it forced upon them in huge moments on the field of competition, or in a sobering dose of real life's reality. If you are brave enough to walk through this fire and recognize the moment for what it is as it happens, you might just come out the other side a stronger, steadier person.

For me, I found my balance through the struggle of losing a parent and coming up short of making an Olympic team in the same year. At my lowest point of despair and self-doubt, a good friend and respected official in our sport told me something so simple and yet profound that changed my life forever. He said, "John, this is going to hurt for a while, but it will not spell the end of you. What you have in front of you is an elephant. You know how you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." I took comfort in those words as I wrote the eulogy for my beloved "Mommer.” I repeated it in my head as I retook the ice and looked for peace. It is something that Caydee and I practice in our day-to-day lives that keeps us focused on the task at hand. After all, what is life if not a series of steps. How does anyone reach their goals without tackling it day by day, bite by bite. Sure, many athletes have that moment where it all clicks and the pieces fall into place but trust me when I say that "coming out of nowhere" is a myth. We prepare for that moment our whole lives.

In staying true to ourselves, we took to the ice at Skate America and at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow with the approach that regardless of the outcome, we would compartmentalize our performances as another step toward our destination. We work hard at home and can truly enjoy our performances through the assurance that our best will be good enough for ourselves and each other. I'll continue to say that I am blessed to do what I love to do with someone I love to be out there with. Does that mean it will be perfect every time? Not even close. But the peace that we have either way makes us that much tougher out there and allows us to have fun in a moment that many would find stressful.

I am always so grateful not only for the things that my sport has taught me about life, but also for the opportunity to meet new people and see new places that would not have been available to me otherwise.  Take a look at the photos on the right for some of my unique experiences.

Until next time,

John Coughlin