Updated: Sep 3, 2018
I was still nervous getting ready in the Start area. As the competitor before me started that was when a lot of those nervous left. There was nothing else to do but control my race. As I took those first few strides out of the gate most of the remaining nerves left, I was out there to do what I do. As I approached the range for the first time, there was a little self-talk, and a few of the nerves came back. There was a quick moment of relief as that first paddle flipped up. Again as the second shot flipped up the second paddle. After that, I was good. I shifted to the hunter. I don’t remember much of the second lap. I do remember the second bout. To begin that bout there were a few issues that stacked up. The rifle wasn’t perfectly balanced. So I adjusted it. Then I realized the spring stand that holds my rifle up was too high. So I adjusted that as well. After losing some time with both of these issues I took a breath, to relax and wipe the thoughts from my mind before starting my bout. After all the distractions of starting this bout, I had the control to hit all five of the targets. Going clean in the race. I got up and turned on the jets for the final ski loop. Remembering the Sochi Biathlon Sprint where 1.5sec separated the podium. I knew every second would be critical. As I crossed the finish line, I thought I had won, but there were still at least two competitors out on course. One of them, the Frenchman, was tearing up the course and would take the win by almost 30 seconds. I began these Games the same as I had in Sochi, a Silver medal in the Biathlon Sprint (but this time I shot clean). This race would give the confidence that I needed to challenge in the upcoming races.
The following day was the Cross Country Long for the Sit-skiers. My focus for the day was to be very chilled and relaxed, resting and preparing for the final six days where I would be competing on five of the days. March 12 was the only competition I choose to skip, the Cross Country Freestyle Long. I enjoyed being out there and cheering on my teammates over the two days. I had an easier workout that day with some shooting as I got ready for the next Biathlon race.
Day Four of the Games was the Biathlon Middle; four bouts of shooting over a distance of 12.5km. My shooting consistency is one of my strengths, and with four bouts this race starts to trend towards stronger shooters. Figures, this was the only race I would miss a shot in. After the third bout, three skiers were left to fight it out for the win. Daviet, of France, Reptyukh, of Ukraine and me. It was always going to be a tight finish. If I wanted to try and take the win, I would need to take a risk on the range. As I set up for that final bout, I had a small conflict brewing. My conscious self was of a mind to control the bout, guarantee the hits. My sub-conscious, on the other hand, had heard rumours of an all-out speed bout. Both sides clashed as I wasn’t ready but still squeezed the trigger. Missing that first shot, from there I instantly switched everything to speed and before I could blink I had the last four targets hit. I knew then I had some work to do. Trying to put pressure on the other two that were behind me, I pushed as much as I could over that final lap. In the end, I didn’t have the ski speed to hold them back, settling for third place. Strangely, I was closer to the winner’s time in this longer race than I was in the shorter Sprint. Biathlon at these Games was proving to be a three-man race in the Standing category. There were a few moments after this second race where memories of Sochi came rushing back. At this point in Sochi, I had earned a Silver and a Bronze medal but wouldn’t contend in any of the remaining races there. I was determined not to repeat Sochi.
The following day was to be my first Cross Country race at the Games, the Classic Sprint. My goals for the day was to start with a strong qualifier and make it to the final. One strong contender decided to withdraw which opened the door slightly, but there were still a handful of skiers capable of winning this Sprint. Two of which are the best Classic skiers and sprinters on the circuit. Both who were on the Classic Sprint podium at the Vancouver 2010 Games. It was going to be interesting. I don’t always qualify well, so that was why I wanted to focus on that for this race. And I did. In the Qualification race, I crossed the finish line in second place, 0.3 seconds behind the Nitta, of Japan. A few minutes later there would a strange result come up onto the scoreboard. A skier from Kazakhstan suddenly was two seconds faster then Nitta and I. Since the team knew what the Sprint course was we thought it would favor anyone double poling. That just showed. As the Kazak had double poled.
The next day was my final day off from competition at the Games. The following three days would end up being a whirlwind and one of the most exhilarating weekends I have ever had. But Thursday’s focus was pure and simple, recovery. Recovery from the previous efforts and prepare for the final three races of the Games. The final Biathlon competition; the Individual, a 10km Classic, and a Cross Country Relay (if the team needed me). Ever since the test event in PyeongChang a year earlier I’ve been looking forward to these final three races. The Individual is the Biathlon race that best suits my shooting and skiing strengths, but I have never properly taken advantage of it. With improved recent performances in Cross Country, I believed I had a real opportunity to be a serious contender in the 10km Classic. And, if I was given a chance to compete in one of the Relays I wanted to ready to do my best.
Little did I know what was in store for that final weekend of the Games…