BEDFORD, Mass. — Like many other teenage drivers, Jincy Dunne is still learning the finer points of operating a vehicle.
“My parents were a little nervous about me driving in Boston, but I’m getting better,” the 16-year-old said.
Unlike many other teenagers, Dunne was recently followed by a film crew from Nickelodeon. That’s because she is vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Team that will compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games in February.
“The Nickelodeon guys were telling me they had done a little thing with [Olympic swimmer] Missy Franklin and [gymnast] Gabby Douglas, so I’m like, ‘Whoa those are some big shoes to fill,” Dunne said about a week after Team USA started practicing at the EDGE Sports Center in Bedford, Mass., where the team will train up until the Winter Games. “So again that was a little nerve racking, but again the experience is great.”
The U.S. team will be cut down from 25 players to 21 in December, and if Dunne, a St. Louis resident who turned 16 in May, makes the final cut, she would be the youngest female player ever to skate in the Olympic Winter Games for Team USA.
Dunne would be three days younger than Lyndsay Wall was when she played in 2002 in Salt Lake City. Sandra Whyte was 17 years old when she played in the in 1998, and several players played for the team while they were 18 years old, including Angela Ruggiero (1998), Natalie Darwitz (2002) and Sarah Parsons (2006).
Even though players with a similar pedigree have paved the path, Dunne said she thinks making the team would be “doable” as a 16-year-old.
“It’s not just hockey, but you see other 16-year-olds in the Olympics,” she said. “Gabby Douglas, she’s a great example. I think it’s definitely possible, but now that the road has been paved I just have some big shoes to fill.”
Teenagers across the country can take stock in the fact that while Dunne’s hockey skills are beyond her years, her driving skills are still a work in progress.
“I got that first accident out of the way so … it wasn’t bad at all,” she said. “There were some tears when I was talking to the other lady, but she was super nice. She was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, there was no damage we don’t need to call the police,’ and I was like ‘Thank goodness.’”
Later on Dunne said she had four missed calls from her father, who wondered if there was an emergency when she finally spoke to him.
“I was like, ‘No, no I’m good, how are you?’” she recalled. “He’s like, ‘Oh you didn’t wreck the car did you?’ just trying to be funny and I was like, ‘Well now that you brought it up I might have rear ended somebody today, but it’s not a big deal.’”
But if competing against the best women’s hockey players in the country and getting into a car accident during her first extended stay away from home wasn’t hard enough, Dunne also had to deal with the death of her grandmother, who had lung cancer, on Aug. 23 at the age of 69.
Dunne’s grandmother, Jo Ann Bobbitt, was hospitalized the week before Dunne left for Massachusetts in August. Dunne went to visit the night before she left.
“I was in the room with her and the doctor told her she had about two weeks left to live,” Dunne said. “And that was hard, but I got to spend the night with her and we just got to talk.”
Soon after, Dunne spent a week with her family at home and in Virginia, where her grandmother was buried.
“It was a God thing because I called our director for our team and I said, ‘Hey here’s the situation, my grandma is really sick, I might have to go home, I just want to be up front with this,’” Dunne said, “and right when I called her I got a call from my dad. So then I called my dad back and he said, ‘You’re going to have to come home. They don’t think she’ll make it through the weekend.’
“And again [it was] a God thing because I was able to get on the last flight out of Boston that night. I got back late Friday night, my cousins drove in, and Saturday morning she was out with all the morphine, so she was unconscious, but I was beside her the entire time until she passed away. I got to be with her. I got to be with family and then just got to spend a great week with my family.”
Dunne said her grandmother attended all of her tournaments and was looking forward to the possibility of seeing her granddaughter in the Olympics.
“She and my grandpa were just great about being in our lives,” Dunne said. “And I knew if I was healthy and I made it she’d be in Sochi no doubt about it. I told her I would do everything I could to just make the team.”
Being away from home under these circumstances certainly isn’t easy for Dunne, especially since she is so close to her five siblings. But she said it seems like whenever she feels down her parents are always a phone call, or even a flight, away.
“I know if I said, ‘Mom I need you to come up,’ she would come up in a heartbeat, but I kind of realized ‘You’re on your own right now,’” Dunne said.
It also doesn’t hurt that her mother always seems to send an Edible Arrangement fruit basket at just the right time.
“Oh absolutely, Edible Arrangement helps anything,” Dunne said.
All in all, Dunne has already had a one-of-a-kind teenage experience.
“With all this going on I definitely am getting a unique teenage experience, which I wouldn’t trade for the world what I’m doing every day,” Dunne said. “I don’t even think twice about missing parties or not getting to go to home coming, I’m still going to get to go to prom.
“I believe this is where god has put me and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.