So much to say here, people to thank, a million pictures and a million memories to bring up that it was difficult write. After all the latest media articles, it's about time I wrote my own summary and abridged version!
2 weeks ago I finished my last formal race as a biathlete at Canadian Championships in Quebec. I received this pin... (but only 2 targets white after 15yrs with Biathlon Canada...ya gotta be a real long lifer apparently ;))
A wave of thoughts, emotions and memories have rushed over me over the last month, as I'm sure any athlete retiree has experienced. As I reflect on the last 16 years that I trained full-time and competed at an international level I’m flooded with a lot of memories. If someone had told me when I started biathlon in '98 that I would be a ‘lifer’ (aka someone who does the sport & can’t give it up till they’re an old veteran in their 30’s), I would have laughed and said ‘yea right’. But here I am, finally saying goodbye!
My interest and passion in skiing started before I was even born! My parents met each other while downhill skiing in Austria and when I entered into this world even my aunt declared I was going to be an Olympic skier…(though I had no idea she had written this card until fairly recently!)
There were awesome times and there were tough times as an athlete. All of these experiences weaved me into the athlete I was and the person I am today. I’m proud of the many years I represented Canada internationally, wearing my spandex with honour (however crazy the design was!). I look back with happiness at the many fun times I shared with my teammates and staff, my on the road family. I cannot thank all the many people that influenced me enough. You gave me the strength and courage to go for it. THANK YOU - to the many teachers in my school days, my coaches, strength coaches, physiologists, sport psychs, physiotherapists, massage therapists, our wax techs, all of my teammates throughout my career, all of my many sponsors & supporters in the community and of course, my ever supporting parents & my brother. Thank you also to Biathlon Canada. Special thanks to Dennis Sjolie who introduced me to biathlon, Richard Boruta, my coach through most of my career, Petr Zidek, assistant coach & chief rifle fixer & stock maker, Roger Archambault, my coach in 2006/7-2007/8 who dared me to dream bigger. My major equipment sponsors in my career, Atomic, Leki, Adidas, & Julbo. Thanks to all my fans too, and especially my own personal German fan club my 'other' Kocher family who even made a flag to cheer me on!
And 16 things, funny & serious, I learned in my 16 years as a ski racer:
1) You have to believe anything is possible! Dream big as they say! Having coaches that believed & motivated me hugely added to my performance and career. I held onto inspiration from my 'hero's' and role models. But in the end, believing in myself and being self motivated was the most important.
2) Training is bloody hard work if you want to be the best in the world. You have to really want it. You have to have small goals, and big goals and then work to achieve them. You have to have a reason WHY. You have to have grit. You have to be a warrior (maybe even a warrior princess)! The big picture needs to be in place and all the minuscule small details must be fine-tuned…constantly.
3) You have to get out of your comfort zone to achieve MORE. Sometimes it includes doing things that totally are not you...(yes I'm in there somewhere ;))
4) Perfection does not exist…you just always have to strive for it.
5) Without proper recovery forget it. Recovery is just as important as all that hard work. Doing more isn’t always more! Find the balance!
6) When you need financial help, involve your teammates. Convince them making a tastefully nude calendar will make millions. (plus we got to do a show with Rick Mercer! www.youtube.com/
7) Sometimes you need an afternoon of deep belly laughter and a day off. Go for a cappuccino with friends. Better yet, get some teammates together and go for a rodelbahn and race down. (There’s this ammmmazing 5km track close to Antholz)
Oslo has a great toboggan course too...3 people on one GT meant pile ups & laughter, especially when a 4yr old steered us towards every bump...(& had to add this pic because it's recent & a great photo of Sandra, Zach & I, old teammates now both into retirement! (Thx to Christian Manzoni, @nodicfocus))
7) Treasure the moments when racing feels easy and you are finishing in the top or hitting goals. Holding onto those feel good moments.
Sometimes dreams really do come true under the rainbow...(pic captured right before I started the 15k Individual to place 3rd!)
8) BUT...sometimes, most of the time, you won’t race the way you wanted to. Learning the lesson & learning how to let it go!
9) Learn from the veterans and learn from the rookies. All your teammates have something to offer. Work together, support each other because both of you will get more out of it. And then put on neon zinc sunscreen just because...
And throwback to rookie days, just a few years ago...
11) Celebrating success on a team as a whole brings everyone up. Not everyone is going to do well each race day but one person's success can motivate the entire team. And when you succeed as a team, it's a pretty great feeling...
And the mens team this year...(3rd at World Championships)
12) Having balance....having a few other pursuits of interest like Uni courses, yoga, music, climbing helped keep me sane. But sometimes we still had too much time on our hands & the result was team bonding with ridiculous video productions such as this one... www.youtube.com/
13) Stress in your personal life will affect your performance. Reach out for support.
14) Some places, some hotels have the worst food and you have to make the best of it. Sometimes it means making waffles in the wax cabin....(Khanty...)
15) Never give up! This attitude helped me get through many challenges I faced in my career through injuries, illnesses, politics & performance failures. I also discovered that I like to work hard, commit to a goal, go for it and keep going until it's achieved. Sport helped teach me this, and I'm positive this will help me in my next chapter too.