In 2003, Bloom captured gold and silver medals at the World Championships in dual moguls and moguls, respectively. He earned 10 career World Cup victories, including a then-record six straight in 2005.
But in his two Olympics, Bloom finished off the podium, ninth in 2002 and sixth in 2006.
“We all use failure as a vehicle to learn,” Bloom, who has worked for NBC Olympics, said in a phone interview Thursday. “Failure makes you stronger. Losing teaches you how to win. We’ve all heard those quotes and clichés, but what does that mean? Why does it make you stronger?”
Here’s an excerpt from “Fueled by Failure,” from the first chapter titled, “22 Seconds to Glory,” about Bloom’s experience at the Torino 2006 Olympics:
I had 22 seconds to make a 23-year-old dream come true.
As I stood in the staging area at the 2006 Winter Olympics, in Torino, Italy, I thought about how I wanted to be able to call myself an Olympic champion. I thought about all my friends around the world watching me on TV and about my dad back home in Colorado and my mom who was in the grandstands waiting for me below. I flashed back to the years I spent competing in regional competitions around Colorado, the phone call I received at 15 when I found out that I had made the U.S. National Team, and the thousands of hours that I had spent preparing myself for this moment.
Images shot through my mind of the journey that had brought me to this point. I remembered the time, at 10 years old, when I first watched mogul skiing in the Olympics with my dad and my mom. My dad has a passion for the Olympics that goes back to the Carl Lewis days at the 1984 games and continues to this day. When a U.S. athlete stands atop the podium and “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays, he gets very emotional. My dad was my first football coach and ski coach, and my hero. I wanted nothing more in my life than to win an Olympic gold medal, not only for myself but also for my family. The thought of my family watching me as I stood on top of that Olympic podium, with a gold medal wrapped around my neck, was a major driving force in my lifelong quest.
I had won more consecutive World Cup races than any freestyle skier in history the year before—I was skiing great in 2006, and this was my moment. I had trained well all week and knew that I was going to ski flawlessly.
One Move, One Moment
As I slid into the starting gate, I got my first glimpse of the 230-meter mogul course where my fate would be decided. It was a beautiful night in Torino; the snow sparkled off the bright lights like a Manhattan sidewalk on a warm summer evening. I went over the three key things I needed to remember:
1. Focus on your skills. They are what will get you down this mountain every time. This was my method of going back to the basics.
2. Live downstairs. I imagined myself downstairs in a cellar where no thoughts from the outside could get in. This was my way of eliminating any thought that wasn’t focused on the skiing task at hand. It helped me achieve tunnel vision.
3. Mind like a river. Any thought that might come up that didn’t have to do with my run would flow from the front of my head out the back. Nothing can stay still in a fast-moving river. This was also how I moved quickly past any self-defeating thoughts like “I’m going to fall,” “I’m going to miss my top jump,” or “I don’t feel ready.”
I had an unusual sense of confidence that day. In my head I knew I was going to ski up to my potential. Finally, the judges were ready; my time had come. I wasn’t nervous. My moment was now!
“Three, two, one,” over the loudspeaker, and I pushed out of the gate. I felt the snow under my skis and quickly got into the top jump. I nailed my takeoff and landed my 720 iron-cross perfectly. As I landed, I started to accelerate faster and faster. The snow was icier than it had been in training. I felt myself getting a bit out of control, but I was determined to fight my skis back underneath me. I got it back together quickly and was flying into the bottom air. The takeoff on my D-spin 720 was not perfect, and I landed with a small compression. But I blazed through the bottom section of the course to the finish line. My heart immediately dropped—I knew it wasn’t my best run. I knew I made a small mistake, but didn’t know how severely the judges were going to penalize me for it.
Even though I wanted to win a medal, in reality, my biggest goal at the Olympics was to ski to my potential. If I did that, everything else would take care of itself. But I had made one mistake, and I knew it would cost me. The only question was how much. In those fleeting moments while I awaited my score, I felt the same gut-wrenching feeling I had experienced when I was 19 years old and participating in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. That year, I had been the number-one ranked skier in the world, but I made a small mistake on my final run and it cost me an opportunity to medal.
My score came up. I was in fourth place with two skiers to go. My dreams of becoming an Olympic champion were over. I had prepared my entire life for this one moment and I knew there would not be another opportunity. Skiing through the media gauntlet that awaited me, I tried to smile, said the right things, and kept myself together, masking the disappointment as best I could. My mom came over, hugged me, and told me she was very proud of me. My mom was my biggest supporter and fan. She flew all over the world to see me compete and had not missed a single football game I played in during high school and college. Yet she always cared more about how I treated other people and how I handled winning and losing than she did about where I placed or whether I won.
When I returned to my apartment in Torino, I closed the door, sat down on the bed, and, well, that was it. I lost it. Tears flowed down my face. A torrent of emotion flooded over me. I wanted to crawl outside of my body because the pain was so unbearable. It was the lowest moment of my athletic life; I felt totally defeated once again on skiing’s biggest stage. I woke up the next morning hoping that it was all just a bad dream. Still engulfed in the emotion of what had occurred, I kept replaying the run again and again in my mind. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to keep to myself and be alone. But there wasn’t much time for mourning and self-pity. Within 48 hours’ time, I had to move on. There was another dream that wasn’t going to wait for me to recover from this devastating emotional blow: football.