The wait is over! For the last four years my athletic goals have been focused on a few brief moments that will happen in the next two weeks.
And I'm fully prepared for whatever unfolds at these Olympic Winter Games.
I've always kept detailed notebooks on every aspect of my skating life. These journals contain all of my thoughts, my feelings, my workouts, my feedback and my goals. After I won my first Olympic gold medal in 2006 I started a new notebook for my journey to Vancouver 2010. There was gold at the end of that road, too, thankfully, but when I re-read my notes from 2006-2010 I am reminded that nothing about my success has been accidental or by chance. Then and now, my results have been the result of my conscious effort to dream, plan and execute my will.
Shortly before the 1,000-meter race in Vancouver, I watched “The Matrix.” I'd seen it before, lots of times, but this time I studied it with a friend. I recall the movie always being criticized for its 'violence,' but in Vancouver I started understanding its real message: that the source of power is being able to free your mind from 'fear, doubt and disbelief,' and that thinking — no, knowing — you are The One is the only way to actually be The One. And anybody and everybody can be The One (and everybody can be one!) from this recipe. At least that's how I understood it.
I won in Vancouver, but believe me fear, doubt and disbelief were very present in my mind leading up to the 1,000m race! The pressure of 'defending' my Olympic title was very different than racing for gold in 2006, when I was determined to win, but others didn't necessarily expect me to. In 2010 I was the hunted. I was in the last race of the night. I might slip. I might have a bad start. But after the gun went off my muscle memory, my training, took over and I prevailed. Three days later, with more pressure to win the 1,500m, I was out-skated by a Dutch skater. It was tough to come up silver for a second straight Games in the race I love, but I was very thankful to have even won a silver medal (by only .03!) since I didn't have my very best stuff that night.
Immediately after the 2010 Olympic Games I started plotting my road to Sochi 2014. As I look over some of my notebooks for these last four years, I'm struck by how much things stay the same, but also by how much they change. My approach to speedskating hasn't changed one bit. I remain my own head coach, and I trust that I have the self-knowledge, intelligence and discipline to write my training program and monitor and improve my technique (with the assistance of coaches and friends, of course). I haven't really changed my formula for success: rest in the spring, training short track in the summer, on the big oval in the fall in Milwaukee and Salt Lake City before the world cup season.
But I'm definitely wiser now. I know when to push hard and when to ease off instead of going after everything all the time. I know how to recover properly so that I get the most out of my older body. I know how to stay in the moment and how to stay within myself, both on the ice and off. I still get upset when I don't win (ok, I get downright ornery), but I'm better at managing it. I can mentally process my results better and faster.
Off the ice I'm also wiser. I can see the "matrix" more clearly — the 'systems of control' that connect us all, for better or worse. I understand the rules better, too, whether those rules involve the media, corporate sponsorships, Olympic committees or even personal relationships. I'd like to think that it's because of my better understanding of the 'matrix' and my improved skills in navigating it that I have been able to harness so much positive energy leading into the Games from fans, sponsors, journalists and even my fellow competitors.
Of course, I wouldn't be where I am without the support of my family and my team (shout-out to Morpheus!) but I've always had good people around me ever since I first started speedskating.
As I make my last journal entries before competing in Sochi, I reflect that I've never been as fearless, never had so little doubt, never had so much belief in my own ability to make things happen, both on the ice and off. I'm beyond results — gold medals, history, legacy — and beyond looking for anything outside of myself to measure success by. I still have a burning desire to win. But my mind is free. I am The One! (Or at least I'm one of the ones.)
Most of all, I'm profoundly thankful that I'm arriving in Sochi healthy, hungry and happy — just like I prepared!