We're finishing up our 2 week training camp here in Italy, which consisted of a lot of skiing, shooting, eating, and sleeping. To be completely honest, I don’t think I ever thought this would be my life. It’s hard not to look back and think…how did I get here?
A lot of people just assume that I always had this dream of becoming an elite biathlete; that I “followed my dream” by choosing this path. The reality is…I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I still don’t. So, I just went for it. Boom.
At first, it was a bit scary to be the exception to the rule; not going to college right out of high school. Now I’m happy I decided to take a different path. If I had chosen to go straight to college, I’d have a degree in some random major and owe a lot of money. Of course I’m not advocating every high school student to skip out on college, I just know that when I was 17-18 years old I needed to get out of the school routine in order to be happy.
In my opinion, the ultimate goal in life is to be happy. Am I happy being a full-time biathlete? Of course I am. My job consists of running, hiking, skiing, shooting, exploring, and being outside. What more do you need? I think it is the coolest job out there.
But I also don’t think it’s what defines me as a person. Too often people get defined by just a small chapter of their life. This past year I was struggling a lot with only being seen as the “Olympic hopeful” or the “professional athlete”. It scares me to think that my life only has one purpose and I’m only good at one thing…skiing and shooting. I grew up being a well rounded kid, and I want to keep being well rounded.
Since professional athletes have a distinct timeline for their success, this is a profession that can’t be continued forever. Unlike a desk job, most of us peak around 30 or earlier. Unless you are Ole Einar Bjoerndalen himself, a 43 year old Norwegian biathlete, then you likely won’t be able to be on or succeeding at the World Cup past the age of 40. That means if you are wise you’ll have a backup plan, or at least aware of the fact that you can’t do this forever. Though I’m only 21, I know that I’m not going to be the next Ole, and I also want to do other things with my life.
I think it’s naive for professional athletes to just assume they will be doing their sport forever. Unless you just keep winning and are making a lot of money out of the sport, it’s pretty rare to keep it up as a career. Therefore, I think it’s healthy for athletes to have a life outside of their sport. For instance, I picked up climbing this summer, help out with youth ski clubs, along with joining Protect Our Winters Rider’s Alliance, where I’ll be attending high schools to talk to students about climate change. Doing this makes me feel like I’m not only a professional athlete, it makes me feel like I have a purpose outside of sport.
I guess where I'm going with this is that I hope every up and coming biathlete (or anybody in general) embraces every part of themselves, and strives to be a fully rounded person. Rather than being pressured by a results-oriented life, remember that each and every one of you has something to offer the world, not just your biathlon ability.
Currently listening to: Left Hand Free (Lido Remix) by Alt J