There's a video somewhere in the world of the internet, it is a interview with Joey Cheek. I can't find it at the moment but I've watched it a hundred times so bare with me on the exact details. He talks about the 2002 Games and winning a bronze medal, a medal he wasn't exactly expected to win. He talks about how awesome it felt and how great it was and the attention he got and then two weeks later no one cared. He talks about knowing in the coming days/weeks that the moment he wasn't having fun skating anymore he would be done. He talks about how everything he thought that medal would bring, it didn't, and even as an olympic medalist he was still just Joey Cheek. In the end, I don't know if he says it or if it's just what I took away from it: whatever closure or feeling you are hoping to gain by becoming an olympian or winning a medal won't be there. If you didn't feel like you had enough before, you won't afterwards. Many years ago this hit home for me, before I got this close, before any of it mattered.
I guess somewhere in here it's important for me to be heartfelt, to tell it like it is, so I guess here we go:
Two weeks from the start of trials, so I guess two weeks and a few days now. I was doing an off-ice workout involving one leg reactionary box jumps (small box) from the side. On my very last jump I had a misstep, I landed awkwardly on my ankle and it ballooned instantly I've never had anything like it. We did an MRI. I had one grade 1 partial tear, and one grade 2 partial tear in my ankle. Everyday I went to practice did whatever I could, went to the training room to work on stability, balance, rehab, recovery, then I went to the pool to do a low-impact workout, and then I went home and did rehab, balance, and stability workouts throughout the night. The first week after the incident there wasn't much I could do, by the end of that week I was able to skate close to normal at a slower speed. The next week was the week leading into trials, I was able to skate everything at practice. I continued my rehab and recovery. We had a tape job we did for practice, and then I would take that tape off and had a different tape job for the rest of the day. On Thursday the day before trials began, I couldn't skate a start with the tape. I kept slipping and had trouble with it. I decided I could skate without tape all together. Hindsight might be 20/20. I don't think I was able to skate without the tape. I had trouble, I had unprecedented falls, extremely high rate of slipping/breaking out, I just thought I was having a bad day... and then a second bad day. The last day was interesting to say the least, I still had a shot and I got pretty close, I also skated with tape that day. Had I skated the first two days like I did the last even with flaws and everything I believe I would have made the team.
To say it doesn't suck would be a lie, it does suck. But it life goes on. Probably two years ago I made the decision that this would be it for me, good or bad. The problem lies somewhere in the journey. My journey is different then others, and I don't mean the whole thing, I'm just talking about the current day-to-day. I'm assuming you already know if you are reading this, but five nights a week I'm at work until midnight. I walk 10-12 miles a night on average. I get 5-6 hours of sleep on those five nights and then I try and go to practice like it never happened. I can't skate if I don't work, and I can't move up anymore at work with skating. This grind is hard on me, its hard on those close to me that see it, that have to deal with only seeing me in the cracks between the two.
I've never once asked anyone for money, never complained that I deserved more, never cried on social media that working and skating is impossible. There was never a gofundme or anything else. The entire time, that was always by design. It wasn't easy, there were plenty of times I wasn't sure if or how I was going to make ends meet and continue skating. I got lucky a few times with unnamed people doing little things to help me out here and there.. this was how I was suppose to make it up to them. This might be one of the biggest parts of the journey for me, because it was my terms. Maybe you call it stubborn, maybe you call it stupid, but I've always said first I am an adult, and second I am an athlete. If I can't support myself as a human being and if I can't support myself as a speed skater then I won't do it.
Some might have seen me, seen my trials and wondered what was going on. Some probably insinuated and thought they knew exactly what was happening because that's what humans do. I guess in the end I can't exactly put my finger on what happened, but I can tell you what didn't happen. I'm a believer in what you tell yourself matters. I never thought for one second that I couldn't do it. I never gave up and I never lost my confidence. When I hurt my ankle I knew if my foot fit in my boot, I was going to skate, and from there I laughed it off. I just starting telling people, I can't do anything the easy way. After the first day, I was pissed off, I thought I let easy points walk away.. but I still thought I was making the team. After the second day I was upset, but I knew there was still another day and because of that I could still make the team.
In the end, it just wasn't in the cards, and that's something I can live with. Judging my life as a success or failure won't be measured by anything I could ever accomplish in sport, let alone on skates. Those guys that I trained with, that we went through some serious highs and some deep lows together, I wish them the best not just in the coming months but in the rest of their careers. If I could keep going on my own terms and on my own time I probably would.
Lastly, I've had a lot of people reach out to me and everyone's message is a little different and I appreciate every piece of it, I really do, even if I haven't responded just yet. One theme that keeps being repeated to me is that they were in my corner, and that they respect my journey and how it was unique and different and at the end of the day no one can rob me of the hard work it took to just get that far.
Without going into too much detail, by every statistical measure I was never suppose to get this far. When you look at backgrounds, and family, and upbringings there's no statistic that would have pointed me here. No matter what, this will be a success story.