When Julie Chu suits up for Team USA against Finland on Feb. 8 to open the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the 31-year-old will become the oldest Olympic women’s hockey player in U.S. history.
Just making her fourth U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team was a major accomplishment.
Chu is one of 11 players on Team USA’s roster who played on the silver-medal team at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver four years ago. And all 21 women on this year’s roster have also played in women’s world championship tournaments.
In fact, Chu, the first Asian American to pull on the Team USA sweater, is only the third player to ever make her fourth Olympic team.
“In anything, it’s definitely harder to make a roster form one year to the next, one Olympic cycle to the next, because of the growth of our program and where girls’ and women’s hockey is.” Chu said. “If anything, that was definitely this year. I had to really work hard at it, and we’re looking forward to going forward.”
That said, the Fairfield, Conn., native said she’s not really dwelling on the milestone.
“I don’t know if I really think about it as a fourth time,” said Chu, who is four years older than the next oldest member of the U.S. team. “I think I’m just excited to be on this team and with all of these amazing teammates I have. We’ve all worked really hard to earn a spot to be here and to continue to work hard and focus on winning a gold medal.
“I think I focus more on that than anything else.”
The one-time Olympic captain who has notched 15 points in Olympic play knows that this time around she will play more of a supporting role.
And she’s more than okay with that.
“My job on this is to more fill in that fourth line role, and if I get the nod to go be an energizer,” she said, “and otherwise be a support player and spend a lot of time on the penalty kill as well.”
The veteran will also be a good resource for some of the young players navigating the limelight of the Winter Games for the first time. Although even Chu said this time around there will be an added distraction that they have to learn how to tune out: social media.
“With us, we’re just going to be more cognizant of our time on social media,” said Chu, who answered fan questions during a “digital sendoff” on Twitter recently. "I think it is readily accessible, and I think we are still going to be able to use it in a great way and share our experiences with others, but I think we are going to make sure we limit our time on it so it’s not a distraction.”
She also said that she is going to try to soak up her fourth and perhaps final Olympics next month more than she has the last three. She said as a 19-year-old at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City she knew she had plenty of ice time ahead of her. After all, she hadn’t even played college hockey yet at that point.
Now the former Patty Kazmaier Award winner who became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history while playing at Harvard University doesn’t pretend to know when she will last lace up her skates for Team USA.
“As you get older, we tend to appreciate things a lot more because it could be our last game — this could be our last year or maybe we have many years ahead of us,” Chu said. “But I think we’re able to see the bigger picture a little clearer when we are a bit more seasoned.”
But after winning three medals that were not gold (silver in Salt Lake in 2002, bronze in Torino in 2006 and silver in Vancouver in 2010) Chu believes this U.S. squad has the potential to come home with the ultimate prize.
“For all of us, we are ready for a gold medal,” she said. "We’re not going to worry about last call or not, but we know that we are going to have to earn it. We prepared well and we’re going to make plenty of adjustments when we get to game time as we get a chance to go from one opponent to the next. But that’s our goal is to win a gold medal.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
The 2006 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team, which stood 1-1-1 after three games, fell to 1-2-1 after a 2-1 loss to Sweden in Sunday's fourth first-round game. Team USA faces Russia Tuesday with a chance to assure a quarterfinals appearance -- though, through tiebreakers, its three points to date will likely suffice.