"How am I going to be able to cope with the pressure?"
A question a lot of athletes must ask themselves. One millisecond too slow, one small slip, just missing that shot… We train our whole lives and, for most of us, our Olympic dreams are ever so delicate, our competitive moments fragile and, despite the years of hard work, it's all terrifyingly destructible. Charlie and I had been feeling strong and had had much success leading into Sochi. While we had been thrilled to come away from Vancouver with a silver medal, we had begun to realize that the feasibility of gold in Sochi was surprisingly scary. During our summer preparation before the Games, the idea that that possibility would come down to a series of just a few moments on the ice seemed like too much. "Once the moment actually arrived," we thought, "how would we possibly remain calm?!!??!"
Now, exactly one year to the day since our win in Sochi, it's interesting to reflect upon the reality of how we really did cope with the pressure. While we had incredible nerves four years earlier in Vancouver, worrying about skating our best and being very aware of the dramatically increased viewership as compared to what we were used to, we were just so excited to be Olympians!! In Sochi, however, we realized what was at stake — it was our dream on the line and we were so close.
Certainly, going into that high-pressure situation was made much easier having been to the Games before. I remember going into the Vancouver Games thinking that the ceiling would be higher, the top seats in the stands invisible from the ice and the roar of the crowd deafening. In fact, when I went to Niagara Falls for the first time as a child I remember crying to my dad because I "thought it would be bigger." Dissimilarly, the fact that the Pacific Coliseum was really just a normal arena was a great relief. The back of the stadium was visible and, despite the crowd, Charlie and I could hear our music just fine. Very purposefully taking that memory with me into the 2014 Games somehow made our task in Sochi feel more manageable.
Another surprising comfort I'd found in Vancouver was the atmosphere of the Olympic Village. Going into our first Olympic Games, I was surprised to find out that some athletes chose not to stay in the village. For me, the feeling and culture of the village was unexpectedly special; I'd never felt more at home. Walking around the villages in both 2010 and 2014, eating in the cafeterias and meeting other athletes, there's a real sense of belonging. In those moments, I felt like all of the work Charlie and I had done had brought us exactly where we were supposed to be. The idea of sitting alone in a hotel room, preparing to head over to the rink to compete for Olympic gold seems impossibly terrifying. Being in the village though, you're surrounded by people who are all doing the same thing. Being a part of this sort of mini-society for a few weeks, the outside world and the fear of the magnitude of the Games seems to slip away.
Finally, while getting onto the ice for practices or heading to the rink for competition in Sochi, I found myself repeating one of the mantras that stuck with me from the Vancouver Games, "Amazing Awaits." When I'd first heard the slogan heading into Vancouver, it brought tears to my eyes. Just two words, but the perfect embodiment of the possibility of the Olympic Games. Though we approached the 2014 Games fully aware of the fragility of our chance at Olympic gold, what was more important was that I believed amazing really did await us in Sochi. As athletes, each of us is striving to find our own "amazing." Going into Sochi, Charlie and I had never felt so strong, so connected to the ice and to one another. Our programs and our training had all come together and we were ready to be at our best. As such, I found the slogan so empowering, "Amazing Awaits." I felt like we'd done everything we could do, and if we were brave enough, our own version of "amazing" was there waiting for us on Olympic ice in Sochi.
In all honesty, winning really was just the icing. When athletes say in interviews that they want to perform well and that the result is less important, I don't get the sense that people always believe what they're hearing… Especially a year out, the medal is awesome and I feel such pride when Charlie and I are introduced as Olympic champions, but it's our journey to gold that means so much more and fills me with inexplicable pride. Thank you so much to those who were a part of our journey to Sochi and to everyone for the continued love and support; we're so grateful.