Sochi Spotlight: Julie ChuJulie Chu skates in the second period against Sweden during the women's ice hockey semifinal game at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Shayba Arena on Feb. 17, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
An Olympic gold medal is all that is missing for Julie Chu.
In three previous Olympic Winter Games, the Fairfield, Conn., native has medaled three times as a member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team. Twice she won silver medals, one she earned at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and in 2006, she came home with a bronze medal.
Chu, who at 31 is the oldest member of this year’s squad, will chase after the elusive gold medal with her teammates in yet another championship game against Canada Thursday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi.
The intense United States versus Canada rivalry in women’s ice hockey has produced four gold-medal Olympic Games, including 2014, and a number of meetings in the IIHF World Championships and Four Nations Cup. The United States defeated Canada for the 2013 world title but lost to the Canadians in the preliminary round last week in Sochi.
“I think it’s great for our sport,” Chu said about the rivalry. “I think it really helps push both of our teams to be better every day. When we get a chance to play them, it’s competitive, it’s intense. It sometimes gets a little ugly.”
Only Canada and the United States have won Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey. Team USA won the first Olympic women’s tournament at the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games. Canada has won three straight gold medals since then, including a victory by a single goal over Team USA four years ago in Vancouver.
For the first time, Chu is playing for her college coach in the Winter Games. U.S. coach Katey Stone is the longtime women’s hockey coach at Harvard, where Chu was a four-time All-American and student body president. A forward, Chu graduated from Harvard as the all-time leading women’s scorer in NCAA history and in 2007 won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the best women’s player in the country.
“Julie’s been everything to the program,” Stone told USA Today. “She’s been a youngster, she’s been a mentor, she’s been a captain, a leader, a great friend, teammate and mother to the younger kids in the program.”
Chu was captain of the United States’ 2012 and 2013 world championship squads. When four-time Olympic medalist Angela Ruggiero retired in 2011, the team turned to Chu as its leader. She is the first in U.S. women’s national team history to win five world championships.
When Chu made the Olympic team a fourth time in 2014, she realized the roles had changed for her. Four years ago she was assistant captain of the Olympic team. She said the 2014 team was the most difficult Olympic roster to make following four months of training in Bedford, Mass. But she was determined to enjoy the Olympic ride one more time.
“I’m really proud,” Chu said in an interview with TeamUSA.org after being named to the team in the official announcement during the NHL Winter Classic New Year’s Day at Michigan Stadium. “I’m so glad to have amazing teammates that have supported me, my friends, my family. They’re unbelievable and I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Chu injured her hand in a practice this past Saturday in Sochi, but she still played for more than 12 minutes in Monday’s 6-1 win over Sweden in the semifinal round.
Expect a determined Chu, wearing jersey No. 13, on the ice for what will likely be her final Olympic game Thursday against Canada.
“Chuey can embrace a lot of different roles and from a leadership and teammate standpoint, she’s as good as anybody,” Stone said.