It’s human nature to encounter adversity and, when you do, there’s a choice you have to make: Are you going to fight and overcome? Or are you going to essentially fail?
For me, over the last three years, adversity came in the form of a devastating motorcycle accident and a stroke. I could have given up. Instead, I chose to fight. I chose to work towards getting back to the Olympics, one small step at a time.
What does it mean to Be Olympic? To me it’s about grittiness. When things stand in your way, it’s that grit factor that gets you where you want to go. Goals don’t come easy. I don’t think they come easy for anyone, in any line of work. It doesn’t have to be going around a frozen pond really fast on speed skates, it can be any goal you want to achieve. I think if you make an attempt with some grit and push forward, you’ll surprise yourself and everyone else with how far you can go.
The motorcycle accident in May 2015 left me with a broken femur, torn ACL, punctured lung, concussion, damage to my kidneys and liver, broken elbow, broken spine. I had a titanium rod implanted in my leg. Not long afterwards, in hospital, I made a list of attainable goals and I’d cross them off when I achieved them. It wasn’t easy. My first goal was to stand on my right leg. I lasted all of a minute before the pain became too great. I was so exhausted afterwards, I slept for three hours.
Less than a year later, I was strong enough to bike the Arizona Trail, an almost 1,300-kilometre journey, with my now-wife Josie. Two days after finishing it, I suffered a massive stroke. Although I didn’t know if I’d be able to race again, I still considered myself lucky. Time is of the essence when it comes to strokes, and I’m lucky I was within a 20-minute drive of the hospital when it occurred and I’m lucky Josie recognized the symptoms.
I also knew I could be lucky moving forward with a good attitude, positive energy and a no-excuses philosophy.
The 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang will be my fourth Olympics. If I can win another medal, that’s obviously the goal. But there are steps along the way and we’re going to see how far those steps can go. If I can make it to the top step of the podium, that’s what I’m attempting to do. If I only make it halfway, I’ve still made the attempt.
But if I can even walk in the opening ceremonies, I think I’ll feel a certain amount of fulfillment. I feel like I’ll be able to take it all in and absorb everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve overcome in the last three years and know that’s a huge win. I’ll know how much work, how much grit, was needed to get there.
That’s what it means to Be Olympic.