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One Bite At A Time, Part III (7/1/13)

BY JOHN COUGHLIN

Mom
Caydee, Dad and me in Kansas City
What I believe
NBC Olympics shoot
Dear Mom,

First thing’s first, Happy Birthday. I'll be a gentleman and not reference your age other than to say you are still way too young to be gone. I've noticed recently that I measure my own age in years since you've passed, so rest assured I will never forget you. For Father's Day, Caydee and I were able to get home to Kansas City and teach a seminar. Getting to help kids in the very town where I got my start really left me hoping that I reached a few of them and maybe inspired them into thinking, "why not me?"

Seeing Dad and Angela was therapeutic for me and it was exciting to show Caydee some of where I grew up. It just seems like someone that important in your life should have a sense of your beginnings. I drove her down the street we grew up on and showed her the house. It is all fixed up now but still has a million of our stories pouring out of it. I remembered the 5 a.m. drives to the rink and the time we backed out of the garage without putting the door up. I remembered pretending our stuffed bears could fly during the long road trips to competitions and the traumatic incident when "Bop" flew out the window and we had to go back a few exits to rescue him. I'm still half afraid that a stuffed animal can drown in a washing machine…

I'm 100-percent healed from my big injury that sidelined us during such an exciting season last year. Feeling like my old self again made me conscious of the fact that my body may have been compensating long before pain let me know that something was wrong. It feels so good to be on the other side of that hurdle, but I am more aware now of my own mortality as an athlete. None of us are guaranteed a certain amount of "sport life." It was never in my nature to be a nervous competitor, but this year should be extra enjoyable just to have the gift of training and competition back once again.

We are making a concerted effort to stay true to ourselves this year, trusting that it will carry us where we want to go. Then again, if we can look back at the ride and say we did it on our terms, I think we'll be proud either way. I've come to really believe that the greatest distance between two places is time gone by. It seems unimaginable that you passed away during the last Olympics, and here I am trying to qualify four years later. Before the U.S. championships in Boston this year, we'll be at Skate America and Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris. I always hope to have the American Grand Prix so we can skate in front of our home country… and Paris!!! Yet another place I wouldn't dare to have dreamed of if not for skating. Thank you so much for these opportunities and the memories that come with them. They will be cherished by me always.

I hope you look at where I am and feel like all of the sacrifices the family made for me were worth it. More importantly, I hope you are proud of the man I am trying to become. I have decided to approach whatever I am meant to do from now on in this sport as a gift. The road traveled to this point has been a competition in itself to see who could keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm not ashamed to say that, should our road lead to Sochi, I'll be most eager to reach out and thank the long list of people without which these dreams wouldn't be possible.

There are so many small steps between here and that ultimate goal. Hundreds of run-throughs, thousands of repetitions, millions of thoughts demand attention. Time seems to be flying and standing still all at the same time. This season has been full of little reminders that there is something special about 2014. Being invited to the NBC Olympics/USOC summit in California was an honor. I soaked up the presence of athletes who had already conquered the Olympics and were back for more. The rink where we train is an Olympic Training Site, and we just participated in our community’s Olympic Day event. People took the time to stop and wish us well on our quest, and we in turn encouraged some kids to chase their dreams. Be it bigger and better elements or show stopping music, everywhere we turn and everything we do is with an eye towards the big dance. It is an exciting time and I am making sure to take none of it for granted.

With all of this storm swirling up around us, it could be easy to get overwhelmed. But to be honest, I think it is within us to get this done. It is just another one of life's elephants that must be eaten one bite at a time.

Like you taught me, I'm saving my prayers for things that truly matter. Please watch over and keep safe the people I hold dearest. And please believe what you hear me whisper to you every day before our music plays. I love you and I miss you every day.