For most Biathletes, classic skiing is usually secondary. Not the technically focus or where the victories might come from throughout a season, for most. That is why it is hard for me to claim that I’m just a Biathlete anymore. I jokingly call myself a Classic Biathlete. That statement is only made truer based on this previous season. I bookended the 2018-2019 season with two World Cup victories. Both from Classic races! The opening race of the season I charged right from the gate and set the fastest time in the 10km Classic race. I felt fantastic and in control of the entire race. I woke up that morning feeling great and believed that a podium was a possibility. Then in the final race of the season, I found winning form once again and skied to the win in the 5km Classic in Sapporo.
By no means was my Biathlon season not a fantastic one, it was that I never found myself on the top step of the podium. Though I never left the podium either. So many aspects of Biathlon are about consistency. I proved that throughout the season that I had the consistency to be amongst the best. It was another year where I confirmed that the training was effective and also on point. In my shooting, I built through the season and had my best events in March. I never missed a competitive shot in March where I had one miss in February and two in December. I finished several races this season that could have won on any other day just not on that day. The two that stick out; the Individual at Worlds and the Sprint in Sapporo. Both races I was at my best. I made no mistakes, every aspect that I had control over I put together. That is Sport. You don’t control what others do. The Sprint, for example, the top-3 shot clean, and eight seconds separated the podium. By far the closest race of the season, if not, the past couple of seasons. It was an incredible race to be a part of, as three Biathlon titans, battled it out with very little between us. Being a part of a race like that is what keeps sport exciting.
It has been a long season; the first competitions on-snow were back in October, and I finished my last race of the season on the last days of March. Then all that was after one of the busiest and travel-heavy off-seasons I’ve ever had. It is hard to believe that the PyeongChang Games were only a year ago. There has been so much excitement and experiences since I left PyeongChang.
This past season I’ve enjoyed building upon those experiences. What is the most exciting for the future is that after all the success of PyeongChang? I look back over the 2018-2019 season, and there were races that I feel were better than those at the Games. That is a thrilling feeling!
Now, let’s hand out some hardware for the past year.
In the category of Pure Racing Enjoyment; the winner is- the Relay at World Championships. Thanks to my teammates.
In the category of Best Recovery from an Upsetting Previous Day – the 5km Classic in Sapporo. That race also takes the Best Recovery Without Falling Award as well.
In the category of Close but No Cigar- the Biathlon Sprint in Sapporo.
In the category for Best Shooting - Biathlon Nationals in Whistler, 50 for 50. Considering only World Cups, Sapporo would take the prize.
Finally, for Best Race of the Season. There are some extraordinary options for this award and for different reasons. The Larch Hills running race from October is a memorable one. Any of the races from Prince George’s World Championships are worthy. Six medals from six races are praiseworthy, while some of the individual races there, I feel were career highlights. But I choose the race that got it all started this season. A race that demonstrated a shift in my skiing and belief of what I’m capable of achieving. In the final individual event of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, I earned a Bronze medal in the 10km Classic. A medal is an incredible accomplishment, but I wanted more. My hunger for more grew throughout the off-season. I no longer was satisfied with being competitive in Classic skiing; I wanted to be the best! I was given an opportunity to prove that with the first competition of the World Cup season. And so I took it. All the work I had put into the technical side of the classic skiing was there. The fitness was bursting to be let out. The skis were that perfect balance of fast gliding and instant and reliable grip. After only a few seconds of racing, and only going by a feeling, I believed I could win. I had all the tools I needed to make that happen; it was up to me to orchestrate a brilliant race. For that entire race, I was in the moment, feeling that every stride I took moved me that little bit further ahead of everyone else. A surreal feeling! In this race, I was showcasing a new me. I was redefining what success meant to me! Therefore the winner of the Best Race of the Season was the Classic 10km from Vuokatti!
With the celebrations after PyeongChang, I could only quietly say ‘now onto Beijing.’ Now a year later, those words actually have meaning for me. They are no longer merely words; they are what my focus is over the next 1057 days. In the past few weeks, I felt a decisive change from ‘post-PyeongChang’ to ‘pre-Beijing.’ Over the past year, I have redefined what I feel is success. Past successes have left me with an insatiable hunger to surpass those achievements. What am I truly capable of accomplishing? There still may be points of interest along the way, but the directions are set to my destination- Beijing, for March 5, 2022!