14 years ago on February 25th, 1994, I stood on the podium at the Olympic Games with three of the greatest athletes on the planet where we bent our necks and received the weight of an Olympic silver medal.
But I wasn't really there - I was already off - thinking about, "what's next? Should I keep skating? I've never had a real job - maybe its time I join the workforce and have more than a dollar in my wallet. Wonder if I'll get drug tested? I don't have to pee..."
The thing is, in pursuit of the highest levels of excellence, you have to live in the future, because - by and large - the present sucks. Three-a-day mind numbing grinding workouts. Up at dark, returning in the dark, constantly in a cold environment - even in summer. Separated from friends and family, tired of books, tired of TV, just plain tired. The only thing keeping you going other than pure discipline is that glow on the horizon - the thoughts of that golden moment - that chance to stand on the podium and as the world watches, accept the reward for all the sacrifice.
And then the moment comes, and the mind is incapable of living in the moment it was preparing for - it has become like a telescope - extended out and focused only on the horizon. To suddenly try and return to the present inverts one's entire mode of existence - and like peering through the wrong end of the lens you find yourself far off, floating in the ether, miles above the podium watching the tiny figures, only vaguely realizing that one of them is you.
When people ask "what was it like to stand on the podium at the Olympics?" - this is the real answer:
I don't know. I wasn't there.
I watched the re-runs later like everyone else.