The Olympics Pursuit

It is hard to come to terms with my present circumstance. To help me understand and process things a little better I decided to write one more blog.

Originally I had planned to write more blogs throughout the winter. As my season progressed, it became increasingly intense and I found that I felt like I had less and less time to write, with little cheer to write about.

It has not been an easy season for me. I feel like I have underachieved at every race. I’ve seen glimpses of my potential and the true fitness that I believe I brought to Europe during some of these races, however I was never able to put together a full race when it counted, when it mattered.

For the second time I won’t be going to the Olympics.

It’s a very bitter pill to swallow. Approaching the season I was very confident that I would be able to obtain my goal of making the Olympic Team. I failed. I needed to perform in just one more race. That’s all I needed. I failed to produce one more substantial result to qualify. It was agonising seeing result after result miss the mark.

After missing out on what has been so totally consuming for the past 4 years, it’s hard not to feel like my entire ski career isn’t just one big failure. I have done little else and focused on very few other things than making the Olympics for many years now. After the first time I missed out in 2014 I promised myself that I would never let it happen again, that I would qualify for every major championship or event I set my sights on. Until now, I kept that promise to myself and qualified for two more World Championships and the Tour of Canada. Then, I missed the big one… Pretty soul destroying.

However, looking at the situation now, it’s hard to say whether I did fail or not.

Let me explain:

As an athlete we put so much stock in the thought that being a professional racer means that success is the only thing that matters. Yet if 100 people start a race, only one person can win, one and only one person can be successful in that sense. However if someone is ranked 99th and finishes 47th, is that not success itself? I have tried to qualify for four major events and been successful in 3 of 4. Doesn’t that make me successful?

These are some of the questions I’ve tried to figure out since not qualifying for the Olympics. Perhaps I’m just looking for justification of my own ski career. Perhaps it’s just simple musings.

I recognise that there are many people across many countries that haven’t qualified for the Olympics and that are in a similar position to me. Perhaps even more upset than I am, perhaps they have faced even greater tribulation only to fall short as well.

I can’t deny that the past 12 months haven’t been easy. In fact, it’s been far from it. Yet I refuse to use any of it as an excuse to why I wasn’t successful in my Olympic bid.

To look back on my career as an athlete and call it a failure based on the events I have or haven’t qualified for would be shortsighted. I recognise that I haven’t qualified for my main objective, my main goal, my lifelong dream throughout my entire career, which is the Olympics. But it also doesn’t encompass the entire scope of what I have achieved.

Believe me, I am devastated that I didn’t complete the final goal I set for myself. Yet one missed goal clearly doesn’t define a person’s career. Rather, it is how one reacts to these failures that defines them. In many ways, the success of an athlete can be measured in how they deal with the failures and not just live with success. What defines the character of an athlete is their ability to weather the dark days and disappointments, and show that they can succeed afterwards with grace and humility.

My ski career has taught me about success and failure, passion and frustration. This year especially I have learnt to be compassionate and understanding. To listen and accept things even if I don’t understand why. Failure in my skiing goals has taught me to be unyielding in my resolve to push forward, to keep on striving. As athletes, we have the power to move forward and take these tools with us for the rest of our lives. It simply is a foundation that you base your future self on.

Someone said to me that the greatest days are actually ahead of you, not behind you. I believe that.

However trying not to look back and analyse everything is always so difficult. It’s far too easy as an athlete to point fingers at people, race-tracks or environmental factors, and suggest reasons why things didn’t work out. In the end, I was given options and choices, I picked what I thought was best for me, I played the cards I was given as best I could. I thought, just like any other athlete, that I had a winning hand. That I could take that hand and get myself to the Olympics. I made the choices that resulted in this failure, no one else.

Therefore it’s not appropriate or professional to point the blame at anyone but myself. To even accuse the system of failure I think is an injustice to the efforts the other athletes have made to get themselves where they are. Everybody had the same criteria and everybody played the selection game. Some people played it differently than me and perhaps I don’t agree with that, yet in the end it was all fair.

One of the greatest things that cross-country skiing has taught me is that to be successful in life you need to create goals. To set them and chase them with ferocious conviction, to be without hesitation in your pursuit of that dream. However, it has also shown me that you can’t lose sight of what’s around you, the big picture. It’s important to see that there are other goals in life, there is more than just one goal, and if you miss one goal that may mean that you are able to achieve different goals in the future. It is simply unwritten.

Thank you to everyone that has supported me and helped me through this long journey. There are so many people to thanks so for now, simply thank you to you all!

Finally…

I’m hanging up the boots.

I have raced my last season as a professional skier.

To know that I’m retiring is both extremely terrifying, relieving and exciting. Skiing is more or less all I have known for the past 10 years. In some form or another, I’ve chased winter all over the globe for most of my adult life. I acknowledge this as a huge privilege that I will be eternally grateful for. I have lived an amazing life that has taken me all over the world and given me the opportunity to meet incredible people who I cherish as lifelong friends now. I am extremely excited for what lies ahead and I will step forward with the same vigour and drive that pushed me as an athlete.

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My last World Cup as a pro skier.

So I have finally finished dedicating hours of my life to the pursuit of a few seconds.

It’s time for something new, a fresh start. Something we don’t always get.

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Time for a little more of this…

So for the last time:

Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.

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If you need me, you’ll find me in the mountains.
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10 thoughts on “The Olympics Pursuit

  1. Been thinking of you lots this week. So amazed by all that you have achieved as a professional skier and can’t wait to see where your next adventures take you xx

  2. You will have many more dreams to follow, PK. Life isn’t always easy, but it certainly makes you a stronger person when you can accept the past and head for the future. Please stop by for a visit if/when you’re in our neck of the woods.

  3. Come by for a visit sometime my Friend. Your best days are still ahead as someone told you. Ask Paddy. He has moved on with a vengence. Me, not so much. Kelly, always.
    Nicely written but the way.

  4. Hi PK -⎌of course I noticed you had ‘gone quiet’ so to speak and have been wondering how you are travelling and even where to now after it became clear the Olympic selection outcome. You wrote a courageous blog, baring your soul and bitter disappointment, but also that tower of inner strength and reflection that will take you forward! You live the life of an athlete in a bubble in a way, but there are plenty of other bubbles and great things out there for you to find some day. I’ve just run another Vic Junior camp at Silver Star, and at the end I showed them Burning Mans 2011 version of “Oh The Places You’ll Go” (Dr Seuss) – it’s on YouTube and just simply a goodly solid message! Watch it! Well, Awesome pics and well chosen – can see you’ll find plenty more to climb Caio for now Ronice

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  5. Paul. Well done. Remember Pierre de Coubertin’s words. Believe me- the measure is how you handle the struggle. You have already learnt the greatest lesson. Richard

  6. Paul, you have achieved more than most of us and throughout your endeavors, even from a young age, you have had empathy for others and kept your feet on the ground (most of the time!) In my book you have set a fine example for others to follow and I am
    very proud to have you as a friend. I’m sure your efforts and achievements over the last 10 years will not be wasted as they are all valuable experience on which you will be able to draw in the future. Very best wishes, Hans

  7. Paul, so well written and I feel your pain. Our family has always been in awe of your dedication to your goal, and your wonderfully positive attitude, even in adversity, admired. Congratulations on what has been a fabulous effort over such a long period. Love from Jan, Cam, Kate and Tim x

  8. Hi Paul

    Like all dedicated athletes the journey is long with many ups and downs. You have achieved so many goals on this journey and we all feel for you that you missed on the final one – Olympic selection.

    All the best with the next phase of your life with Lauren. You are an enthusiast with a very positive attitude to whatever to set yourself to achieve.

    Good luck
    Paul L’Huillier
    Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club

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