The day I realized I was going to go to the Olympics was a day I will never forget. It was only four years prior that I had been cut from playing in our country’s home Olympics, the Vancouver Olympic Games, due to injury. People say that four years is a long time to wait.. and it was. Being so close, one spot away from a roster spot, is also something that will never be forgotten. The disappointment of losing something to a means that is out of your control cannot be measured.
The days leading up to the final cuts of the roster were filled with anxiousness, worry, and sleepless nights. You analyze every play, game, practice, weight lifting, mental psychology session you completed. You can only trust in yourself that you have done enough to make the final roster. Everything that was in your control, is now out of your control. The coaching staff and general managers now have your fate in their hands from now until the end of the Olympic Games.
The day the roster was released to the public, it was such a surreal feeling. It was a dream come true to represent Canada on the biggest stage. The pride you feel having the privilege to wear the Canadian Maple Leaf is a feeling that will never get old. As a team, we play to represent the unity of our country, every Canadian family and individual.
There are so many defining moments at the Olympics Games. Whenever someone asks me about the Games, there are three things that predominantly stick out in my memory. It is expected that my favorite memory is winning the Olympic gold. And of course it is! You come to the Olympic Games to hear your National anthem playing at the end of the tournament and to see your flag raised the highest above your competitors. What makes the Olympic Games so special is the tradition of the Olympics Games and sharing it with the people you love. I was extremely blessed to have both my parents make the trip, along with my younger sister. It cost my parents a fortune to come and support my dream, never mind the countless hours and money they had spent along the way to help me achieve my dream when I was younger. Both my parents and younger sister had to take time off work, and my sister also sacrificed her schooling as she was in University during that time. The Olympics are magical in itself, but having my parents and sister there, it made the Olympics even more spectacular. I don’t think I would of had the same experience without them there.
The other experience I find myself talking about a lot is the Opening Ceremonies. During our pre- Olympic trip over to Austria prior to the Olympics Games, the veterans would talk about some of their past experiences at the past Olympic Games they have participated in. I didn’t understand at the time, but I took the advice of Gillian Apps when she told us that we shouldn’t be concerned about taking pictures during the opening ceremonies. We should “live in the moment” instead of trying to capture it. That was probably the best advice she could have given for the opening ceremonies. I decided to bring my GoPro and just let the film roll instead of trying to use my cellphone and worrying about trying to capture the moment instead of living in it.
I still remember the walk from our building to the Opening Ceremonies building, enthralled by the aura of exhilaration beaming from every Canadian dressed proudly, sporting the Canadian maple leaf and colors. That same pride could be seen from all the countries’ athletes; the excitement to kick off the most prestigious sporting event in the world was absolutely infectious. It was beyond amazing to see the world unite as one. The world had come together, in this moment, to celebrate together. There were no enemies, no hate.. just love for everyone. To experience such peace and unity was incredible.
After entering the tunnels of the Opening Ceremony building, it was a waiting game. We were one of the last countries to enter the arena. Or so it felt. I still am unclear of the order. With all the anticipation you feel of walking into the stadium representing your country, some of the finer details get lost.
After our entrance and half a lap of the stadium, we got to our seats and enjoyed watching the other countries walk in. The atmosphere of the ceremonies was contagious. The amount of energy in the building was the most energy I had ever experienced to date. I joined in on the festivities, cheering on other countries as they were welcomed into the building. It was really captivating to see all the flags around the stadium. The Opening Ceremonies presentation was electrifying and I thought the Russian committee did a great job. My favorite part of the presentation was when the Olympic torch was lit. I believe it is one of the tranquil traditions in sport and the Olympics. Seeing the fire transfer from the torch baton to the Olympic torch was incredible. It was a “wow, the games have begun” type of feeling.
Hockey is unlike any sport at the Olympics because our sport lasts almost the duration of the games. Our first game was the day after the Opening Ceremonies so it was wonderful to get right into the competition. The rush of adrenaline I experienced stepping onto the ice for the first match was incredible. The preparation phase was complete, time to get the job that we set out to do accomplished.
The round robin flew by. We had a great first few matches as we went undefeated and built up a solid, quiet confidence heading into the sudden death matches. We could feel our team getting stronger as the tournament progressed.
The semi-final game went as planned, we defeated Switzerland. Switzerland gave us a tough game and kept us sharp in our play that allowed us to maintain our high level of play throughout the tournament.
USA vs CANADA. The final showdown for the Olympic gold medal. The Olympic gold medal is the ultimate prize in women’s hockey; this holds true for every sport that competes at the Olympic Games. You either live with 4 years of gold or 4 years of regret. The margin of risk versus success is so minuscule that one chance or mistake can be life changing.
The final game was the most wild, crazy game that I have ever been a part of. The character that was shown in the locker room throughout the whole game was magical. The confidence and pride we executed to win, after being down 2-0 with just over four minutes left, was incredible. The only time we led in the final game was in overtime… the only time that mattered. As a member of that team, I was overcome with the reality of what it really takes to be the best team in the world.
The sense of national pride that came over me when the Olympic officials put the Olympic Gold medal around my neck was indescribable. Hearing the national anthem played as the final team standing and knowing the whole country was behind us gave me shivers. It is a moment I will never forget. I will never forget the journey we took as a team, and will never forget the lifelong journey that I took with my family. Seeing my family in the stands as I got my Olympic Gold medal is one of the proudest moments I’ve experienced. As soon as the anthem was over, I went straight over to my parents and sister to thank them for everything they have sacrificed to help me pursue my Olympic dream and for coming to Russia. It was a day I will never forget.
After the final match, it was time to party with family and teammates. It was wonderful to share such an exuberant occasion with a great team and family. We stayed out late enjoying our victory that still seemed surreal. I still remember waking up the next day with the gold medal beside me in my bed. The game still felt like a dream. The best dream.