BY KATIE UHLAENDER
Xavier, the Mexican Santa Clause and the best uncle ever
Dave (cowboy hat) is mentoring me for farming and ranching
Training over Christmas while dealing with concussion symptoms - my family gave me the strength to train
As I reflect on the one-month anniversary of my race in Sochi, before writing a blog post on the outcome, I wanted to share a journal entry I wrote leading up to the Games, reflecting on the journey…
It’s not about what I need to do or what has happened to me. It is about the choice. Using the phrase a coach once taught me, “nothing bothers you.” You make a choice to stay focused on what you can control. It is the hardest and yet easiest decision one can make. I have faced so much adversity throughout the last six years and heard the way of a hero is to face it head-on and fight.
However, it is much easier said than done. There is so much clutter that comes along with adversity. It’s not just the misfortune or the hard times, what makes it hard is finally realizing you have no control in what truly happens in the result. I spend my career discovering ways to control my sled and point it down a windy, icy hill the fastest way possible. From point A to B, from the start line to the finish, and it’s amazing how one’s state of mind can affect that journey. I’m finding the best way to approach that decision of letting nothing bother you is to stop trying to control the line and just do it. The thoughts of my mistakes, doubt, ‘Am I prepared?, Did I do everything I could to conquer this never-ending line of misfortune?’
There is no doubt I am healed from my most recent adventures of adversity, so now I have to truly believe it; and simultaneously understand all the troubles in my life haven’t stopped. Adversity is a part of life, but what are you going to do about it is the question? And in the moments I doubt if I am ready to get up and fight once again, I realize there is nothing I can do about those hostile challenges we face.
I am a two-time world cup champion, a now three-time Olympian, and a world champion. Going in to an Olympic Winter Games holding the track record in Sochi, where the Olympic Games will be held in two weeks, I wonder if I am ready. I was so excited for the season in October. I was in the best shape of my life, ready to take on the world knowing that our women’s team would be the best in the world. All of that seems to have slipped away from me so fast and slow all at the same time.
I have never stopped believing that I have what it takes to succeed, but doubt creeps in. Two months not being able to train from a concussion and dealing with post-concussion syndrome combined with only having 14 runs on a brand new sled, I often find myself wishing (like a child) that things were the way I had worked so hard to prepare for them to be. Days, months, years of preparing for Sochi. These last few world cup races have shown me the potential of what there is to come, but now I have to make the choice to believe in myself in what I have done in the past and where I am now, and, despite my condition now, let nothing bother me and just go for it.
I can’t change the fact that a bump to the head my first few days sliding in October set me back, took away a chance to race in the world cup. I am now consciously letting that go, which has been a long process in itself. This head injury is not something I can see, it’s not something anyone can really diagnose for sure or even know how the injury affects you. You begin to question every emotion, every weird feeling, wondering if it’s your brain is messing with you.
My father would say, “You gonna quit?” That question is a challenge, and challenging me to step up is how he raised me — to fight. Xavier (one of my father’s oldest and closest friends, like my uncle) would hold up his fist waving it toward me saying, “This is for you.” I understood what that meant even as a kid. It means you have to be a fighter. No one but you knows what you are capable of, so let go of the things you can’t change, things that have potential to distract you and bring you down to a place of mental doubt. That doubt that creeps in, even on world champions. It is again a challenge to forget that train of thought and move on to the only thing I do know — I’m a fighter. I admit I got to a point where fighting made me tired. I’ve been fighting for six years to make it back and take my moment of redemption from my last two Olympic Games. Now that time is here. I’m going to try to silence the thoughts and doubts of whether I have enough time to pull it off or if my previous failures competing injured mean anything. All that matters from here is what I put out there on the line when I get there. How do I make sure I do what I need to? Well, that’s simple…just do it and go fight for my country, my family, and walk in to the Games with my head held high knowing my situation isn’t perfect, but I am not going to waste my moment to fight worrying about whether what I’ve done is enough. I’ve got what I got, and I got enough to fight!!
I’ll hold up my fist and say, “This is for you.” I’m going to fight. So here’s to my first day making the choice to fight with all of what I have to fight with. I’m a scrapper, so let’s just go and see what happens.
A quote from one of my favorite movies, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”…
“Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.”