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Trust the Process

A simple thing to say; trust the process, but it becomes difficult to believe in or put into practice at times. It was something I struggled with over the past few weeks. I’m a firm believer in the process, taking each step as required to achieve success. Perhaps I lost my patience? I know for sure my confidence was shaken a little. It took some time to work through and realize that I had to come back to trusting the process. In the World Cup in Canmore in December, I had great performances and solid results, but maybe I hoped for better. I thought I might have been further ahead than I was. I know from countless seasons I’m not at my peak speed in December. It is not how I train or how my body reacts to the heavy Fall months of training. I was ahead in several performance indicators earlier in the fall, so I hoped that might show at the December World Cup races. When it didn’t materialize to the same extent, I thought it might - I fought a bit with myself to accept that. And yeah, my confidence teetered.

Competing at the December World Cup in Canmore. PC: Nathaniel Mah

Besides that, as we left 2021 behind, I wanted to see the promise of more from myself. I was getting impatient; the concern was starting to grow; I began to question if I had done the right things or done something wrong. I would say that was out of my character in normal circumstances, but I realized a bit later that I had a lot of stress built up. For the past two years, I think building throughout the pandemic. Not that I felt it coming, but it was there. Restrictions didn’t affect much of my day-to-day. But it was the consistent worry of contracting Covid. Honestly, I was more afraid of having Covid and spreading it to someone else. There have been reports on the lasting effects that could do a lot of damage to an athlete’s career. That fear was always there. More recently, as we close in onto the Games, the genuine fear of testing positive and that meaning your Games were over. All these stressors started to mix and build, and I now know the stress restricted how I skied. That evening after the race, all the emotion, the anxiety and fear came out. I was forced to make the realization of what might have been going on.

That evening I questioned a lot. I had to work one stress at a time, debriefing from each stressor. Unveiling the issues I was dealing with or not dealing with. I needed this time to reset. Clear the table, as it were. In the end, I was able to move on by refocusing on the process. What were the steps I needed to take to achieve my goals? Working my way through the stressors. I was where I would expect to be at that time of year. And that perhaps I had already turned the corner. But I hadn’t realized it yet because of the amount of stress I was subconsciously carrying.

Competing in the 30km F at Canadian Olympic Trials. PC: Nathaniel Mah

The next day I had the second race of the weekend. In the warmup, I could feel a sensation of being lighter, that a weight had been lifted off me. I was skiing freer and with more enjoyment. Gratitude towards what I was doing and what I might be capable of in the race. I was able to push myself throughout the race to a point I don’t believe I’ve been too many times. After the race, it was apparent that my body was handling the racing better. I was moving better; I could push harder and hold that pace longer. If I trust the process, the plan will all come as I head towards the final weeks before the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Winter Games. Though I was exhausted from a heavy weekend of racing, I had my confidence returning. The spark was back!

To me, each Games has its unique experiences. Of course, there are huge similarities; they only happen every four years, and as for the Paralympics, they occur in March, and the list goes on. What I’m talking about is that with each Games no athlete is the same person. From my first Games, a ‘home’ Games, I discovered what it might take to reach the highest level in sport. At the time, I wasn’t ready to grasp success—a naïve youngster. Canadian snow provided me with a safe place to try, fail and learn. But through it all, I became inspired, motivated, and driven to become one of the best in the World.

*Maybe I’ll get an opportunity to return to a home Games one day and see if the repeat is a different experience? 😉

My second Games in Sochi were completely different in my approach to the Games. I was a very different athlete in the build-up to Sochi. I had a taste of success there, but I still knew I had more to prove. Returning from Sochi, I celebrated the success but had a hunger for more and was driven by 0.7sec (the time I was short of winning my first Paralympic title). I matured a lot over those next four years leading into PyeongChang. I was ready and needed to focus on the smallest of details that would allow me true medal-winning performances. When it was all said and done, PyeongChang was a week-long dream. Filled with excellent performances and tremendous successes, but as well many lessons were learned.

With great pride, I can announce it is official; I have been nominated to represent Canada at my fourth Paralympic Winter Games. I’ve constantly evolved as a person and as an athlete. Repeating PyeongChang isn’t good enough; I immediately realized that I needed to evolve from those performances rather than chase to repeat them. The journey over the last four years has been a unique experience. I’ve taken strength and confidence that I can still be successful in Beijing thru these trying and differing circumstances. I’m excited to be putting in the final preparations as we head to Beijing. I’m thrilled as we head into a venue that I’ve and no one else has skied beforehand—conditions we don’t understand and a unique Games experience. There will be no time to analyze or plan; there is no opportunity to second guess. I must go in ready, trusting the process and perform!

I’ve said my ‘happy place’ is the month leading into a major Championships. It’s thrilling to know we’re only days away from that. I want to share congrats, and best of luck to all Team Canada members who will soon participate in the pre-Paralympic test event, also called the Olympic Winter Games.

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