Onward (3/5/14)

BY TIM BURKE





The Olympic Winter Games officially ended over one week ago, so I figured it was time to finally update the blog. I originally planned on updating immediately after the Games but I thought it would be better to take some time to really reflect on my Olympic experience.

It's no secret that I had big expectations going into Sochi. I have proved many times that I can be among the best biathletes in the world when I have a good day and that is exactly what I hoped for in Sochi. For the last four years I put everything I had into preparing for Sochi. I don't think one day went by when I did not day dream about standing on the Olympic podium. This year was probably the best year of training in my biathlon career. I had almost no sick days or serious injuries, and I carried through a training plan that had been honed in over the last eight years. I entered the Olympic season confident that I was on track to achieve my goals.

Unfortunately some aspects were out of my control and I came down with a sinus infection one week before the start of the Games. I knew this was bad timing but I tried to stay positive. I was confident that my years of good training would overpower one week of bad preparation. In the end, I never fully recovered before we started racing and I ended up putting myself a little deeper in the hole with each race. After my fifth race, I was totally fried and had to skip the men's relay.

Of course this was a huge disappointment for me. I think I was actually in denial during the Games that this was happening. I could not believe that my years of preparation were being thrown away because of a little sickness. It was not until last week when I had some time to myself did I truly realize what happened in Sochi.

While this situation was obviously tough for me, it also taught me a lot. The first lesson I learned is that my training over the past years did pay off. It did not pay off in the form of an Olympic medal like I hoped, but it did pay off in that I have absolutely no regrets. I am not looking back at my work over the past few years and second guessing any of the effort that I put in. I controlled the aspects that were within my reach and that’s all you can really do as an athlete.

The second point that my Olympic experience really drove home is that I don't believe athletes have either good or bad luck. It's easy when things are not going your way to think that you simply have “bad luck.” While this might feel like the case in the short term, I am convinced that if you commit to a sport for the long term, your “luck” will equal out. The problem is most athletes don't talk about the good luck they had during a competition because they feel their success was gained from skill. When I really stop to think about it, I can recall many occasions in my athletic career when I was lucky. I can even remember a race in windy conditions when I was hitting a target that I was not even aiming at...

The Olympic Games also reminded me just how proud I am to be a part of the U.S. Biathlon Team. Biathlon is one of the biggest, most competitive winter sports in the world. Because of this, we are competing against teams that fly in private jets and have near limitless budgets. We truly are the underdogs. Despite our status, not once did I feel that I was at a competitive disadvantage. Our team accomplishes this because everyone from the coaches to the ski technicians to the physical therapist is 100-percent committed to the success of this team. Our staff continually out-hustles other teams, allowing the athletes to start each race on a level playing field. It truly is an honor to work with this group.

The ups and downs of my biathlon career have also taught me another important lesson: there is no point in dwelling on the past. I still have three more weeks of world cup racing to go and I am determined to make the most of it!

Thanks to everyone for all of your support over the last few weeks!