2014 Olympic host city, Sochi!
|Oslo, Norway -- host of the 1952 Olympic Winter Games
The 2012-13 World Cup biathlon season has officially come to an end! This was my best season to date and I was thrilled to reach nearly all of my goals of winning a World Championship medal, getting back to the World Cup podium and finishing in the top-10 of the overall standings. It definitely feels better boarding the plane back to the U.S. after a successful season!
Although my body was still responding well to racing, my mind was ready for a break. I love what I do, but five months on the road can be trying for anyone. It felt great to get back home, see my family, sleep in my own bed and cook my own food. One of the things I miss the most about being on the road is the ability to cook what I want. By the end of the season, I am always craving a big American style pancake breakfast!
The last three weeks of the season went well for me. We started in Oslo, Norway, which is always one of my favorite stops on the World Cup. Norway has such a rich Nordic skiing culture and this shows in the great pride they put into their biathlon venues. The Holmenkollen stadium sits on a large hill overlooking the city of Oslo and it is clearly one of the best venues in the world. Overall, my week in Oslo went well. I ended up with a fourth place in the mass start, just seconds from the podium. Of course I was disappointed to miss out on the podium, but I was still satisfied with fourth place.
From Oslo, we took a charter flight to Sochi, Russia, for the penultimate World Cup of the season. You might hear charter flight and think that this means smooth travel, but don't be fooled! Our actual flight from Oslo to Sochi was not so bad, but once we arrived at the airport, we ended up sitting on buses for hours while our luggage cleared customs. I even heard one volunteer say that the customs officers were not aware that biathlon involved firearms. Whether that was true or not, I'm not sure, but it did take a frustratingly long time to leave the airport.
I was pleasantly surprised when we finally did reach our accommodations. The housing was very nice with plenty of room for everyone and they even had a washer machine in each house, which was a real luxury! The venue itself was also very impressive. The stadium is huge and it will definitely make for some loud racing at the Olympics next year. Besides the exceptional atmosphere, this stadium also provides some of the best views of the surrounding mountains.
Unfortunately, the actual ski course left a little to be desired. It seemed that some of the downhills were more suited for an alpine venue. In fact, in our first race, 25 percent of the men's field crashed on one of the downhills. To put things into perspective, more guys crashed during this race than crashed during the entire season. I think this was blatant enough that the organizers will be forced to make some changes before the Olympics next season.
Competition-wise, my week in Sochi went pretty well. I ended up with a fifth place in the individual, which was enough to secure third place in overall individual standing. This was a personal best for me in the overall standings, so despite narrowly missing the podium again, I was happy for a new personal best.
|Our housing in Sochi
After a painstakingly slow departure, where one customs officer counted every single bullet from each team, we were off to Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, for the final World Cup of the season. Khanty Mansiysk is located in Siberia and it is one of the destinations that we make nearly every World Cup season. The courses in Khanty suit my strengths well and I always seem to have some of my best results of the season here. Once again, Khanty was kind to me and I ended up with fourth, ninth and 15th-place finishes. It seems like the last three weeks of the season could be summed up by near-podium misses. My last race was no exception, and ended up 0.2 seconds off the podium. Like the individual in Sochi, this race was good enough to secure third place in the overall mass start standings and 10th place in the total World Cup score. Both of these results were personal bests for me, so this definitely helped take the sting away from yet another fourth place.
I am now back home for some much needed rest and recovery. I can't remember being so wiped out after a season. After five months on the road and nearly 30 races, my body and mind were begging for a break. I have now been home for a week and my body is finally coming around and I am starting to feel like myself again. As much as I enjoy competing, I also always look forward to my free time in April. This is the only time of the year where I am not on a day-to-day schedule and I am free to mostly do what I want. Of course I continue to do some training, but I don't have to wear a watch and I definitely will stay inside if it's raining! Besides a short trip to the Bahamas for some beach time and fly-fishing, I plan on staying in Lake Placid for most of April.
For now I will enjoy my free time and pancake breakfasts, because soon it will be back to work for the Olympic season!