Closer to my fourth Olympics
Wow -- the last few days have been a whirlwind! On Sunday we finished our fourth game in five days -- the finale of our Olympic selection training camp. It was truly an incredible week. The hockey was great, everyone played really well, and honestly there wasn't a lot of difference from one player to the next so I imagine we made the coaches' job difficult.
After we'd done everything we could, we had to wait until Monday morning for the verdict. We all hung out together -- watching Nik Wallenda tight rope across the Grand Canyon (was he seriously wearing jeans?). Watching him dangle there between life and death while we were waiting to hear our own fates was pretty ironic. It was good we were able to be around each other and not just have alone time with our minds roaming, though. We've become such a close team that we really do seek each other for support, and it was nice to all be together as we waited for the roster.
But morning rolled around soon enough, and we had a team meeting at 8:15 am where they announced who would stay and who would go. There were 41 of us at the training camp, and 25 go forward from here. In August the roster will be pared down further to the 21 who will go Sochi.
With the depth of our program I don't think anyone felt safe going into that meeting, myself included. When you come to a tryout situation you give it your all, but you are always replaying things in your mind that you might have done better, or differently. You are never guaranteed a spot, and you can't afford to be complacent or to take anything for granted. I don't think many people breathed during that moment -- even the players who went to the last Olympics, or who had been successful in the past few years. Luckily my name is early in the alphabet so I got to take a sigh of relief pretty quickly when I heard my name called.
I've been fortunate to be chosen at the past four Olympic trials and even still, I've cried every time. We've created such a great family (one of our mantras is "we are part of something bigger than ourselves,") and it was completely true Monday. Sure, there are only 25 of us entering the next chapter, but those 16 who went home are still a huge part of it. We take a piece of them with us as we continue. Because they would give anything to be in our shoes, it's our responsibility to honor them every day by working as hard as we can.
I wouldn't really say there were any surprises on the roster because there weren't any shoe-ins, but it's pretty cool that we have a 16-year-old, Jincy Dunne, joining the top 25. She's not even fully developed as an athlete -- she just started training off the ice -- but she's strong and smart and she did a great job in the tryouts. I'm especially impressed at how poised she is for being so young, too!
After the meeting, the 25 of us who were selected went on a whirlwind of headshots and press conferences. We also had 25 youth players come and hang out with us, which is always really special. When you see their starry-eyed view of life and their excitement to be around us, it really humbles us in many ways. We were those kids once, looking up to the players who came before us. It's great to have them around -- you never know who the future of USA Hockey will be.
And of course watching the Stanley Cup was the perfect nightcap for us. With Chicago fans and a strong Boston contingent, there was plenty of heckling before we all passed out from pure exhaustion!
So it was a good day, but a bittersweet one nonetheless. There are a lot of incredible players who aren't with us anymore, and it doesn't mean they weren't as passionate or as hardworking. Sometimes we just don't have the words to understand why it goes one way or another for some players. But that's the way it is, and that's why I think it's so important for those of us who got the nod to go on to make sure we make the most of this moment. I'll be focusing on doing that in these next few months before Sochi.