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As Olympics Approach, Women’s Team Vets Eye PyeongChang

01/10/2018, 11:15am EST
By Dan Scifo

Four years of hard work to get another shot at gold hits stretch run

Competing in the Olympic Winter Games never gets old for Meghan Duggan, captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Duggan has already represented the United States at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, and Sochi, Russia, respectively. Now, the Danvers, Massachusetts, native will lead the U.S. women into action again in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I feel just as excited, just as passionate and ready now as I did eight years ago leading into Vancouver,” Duggan said. “I’m sure every veteran on the team would echo that 100 percent. It’s such a rare opportunity to attend an Olympic Games, represent your country and be part of an event that’s so much bigger than yourself or anything you’ve ever been a part of.”

Being part of the U.S. Olympic team isn’t a one-year training obligation. It takes four years of intense, meticulous commitment to reach this level. So just because the calendar has shifted to an Olympic year, these veterans know the work doesn’t start now.

They’ve been working since Sochi.

“We’re always hungry to be honest,” Duggan said. “We set these goals as individuals at such a young age. It runs deep in your blood and in your soul. This is something we’re always hungry for. Players on this team, in order to put yourself in a position to make this team, and to achieve these goals, you have to be hungry, you have to organize your life around committing to this team, and that’s what everyone on our team has done day-in and day-out.”

The roster features 23 players, including 10 Olympians, six of whom competed at both the Vancouver and Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Kacey Bellamy, an alternate captain on this year’s team, is one of the six players who represented the U.S. at both Winter Games. Bellamy, a Westfield, Massachusetts, native, said the veterans have a responsibility to guide and offer advice to the 13 first-time Olympians on the team.

“A lot of the questions are details around logistics, housing, travel and things like that,” Bellamy said. “I think every Olympics are different. For the 13 newcomers it’s exciting for them and the other players who have been to the Olympics before. It’s going to be a new experience.”

Members of the national team gathered in September for a centralized residency period at the Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida — part of the Tampa Bay metro area — to train for the Olympic Winter Games. It’s at that rink that the women will get their final pre-Olympic tune-up, a pair of exhibition games against teams made up of the top players from the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) on Jan. 13 and 15.

The residency period differs from a non-Olympic year when members of the team primarily play with their NWHL teams, club or college teams. Prior to the start of the residency, players would only gather as a national team for events like the Women’s World Championship and Four Nations Cup.

“It’s a grind, you have to put the work in day-in and day-out, but it runs deep in our heart and in our soul,” Duggan said. “We’re always hungry and we want to get better every single day. You never lose that urge to wake up and want to better yourself because the goal we’re trying to achieve as a program requires sacrifices, effort, and day-in, day-out commitment.”

The U.S. women have medaled in all five Olympic appearances, but only won gold once, in 1998 when the Americans defeated Canada in Nagano, Japan. The U.S. most recently won silver in 2010 and 2014, the latter ending in a heartbreaking overtime loss to Canada. The 2018 Olympic Winter Games mark the 20th anniversary of the lone gold medal-winning team.

This year’s group would like nothing more than to bring home gold again in February.

“Everyone has that excitement, energy and feeling that this is big,” Duggan said. “We’re super proud to represent USA Hockey and the U.S. in the tournament. Everyone is ready. We have that passion that burns in our hearts and our soul. That comes out and we’ll bring that to the games.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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