The telling moment for Molly Schaus might have been when she marched into BC Place Stadium during the Closing Ceremony at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“In the opening ceremonies you walk in under your own flag. In the closing ceremonies all the athletes walk in together,” said Schaus, a two-time Olympic goalie for the U.S. women’s ice hockey team. “That symbolizes everything the Olympics are about — all the athletes celebrating their feats together.
“I’ll never forget that experience.”
Schaus will relive that scene for a new generation of youth Olympians next February. A day after ending her nine-year playing career with USA Hockey, the 27-year-old Massachusetts resident announced Tuesday that she has accepted a new assignment: athlete role model (ARM) for the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Schaus is one of three U.S. Olympians — along with three-time Olympic moguls skier and Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney, and two-time Olympic snowboarder and Olympic gold medalist Ross Powers — selected by the International Olympic Organization to support, mentor and offer advice to 1,100 international athletes from various sports.
In her new role, Schaus will take part in forums on subjects such as skill development, healthy lifestyles, environmental and social responsibilities, and Olympism.
She’ll mingle with the athletes at competition venues, chat informally with them in a specially designated lounge and answer the same questions she raised when she landed in Vancouver four years ago, an Olympic innocent.
“How do you handle pressure? Being in the spotlight? Big moments?” she recalled.
“How do you find the balance between training, career, school, family and friends? How do you use your Olympic relationships and networking to build a post-athlete life?”
After two Olympic Winter Games and countless hours spent with the national team, Schaus is eager to share what she has learned with the next generation.
“Our focus was on hockey 99 percent of the time,” she said. “We treated the Olympics like any other hockey tournament. Seeing the closing ceremonies for the first time really hit home the fact that this is bigger than a hockey tournament.
“That’s what so great about the Youth Olympics. You kind of remove that level and you’re here, yes to compete, and do the best you can, but you’re also here to build these relationships, meet different athletes and take advantage of all the cultural opportunities.”
Schaus is a natural for her new role. In middle school she made a list of personal goals: to play hockey at Boston College and make the U.S. Olympic Team. A two-time All-America goaltender at BC, she went on to win silver medals in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014) and works today for Dream Big, a Massachusetts-based non-profit that provides equipment and other resources so that so low-income girls can play sports.
“The Olympics are such a big part of my life,” said Schaus, who also competed in five world championships, winning gold in four.
“I’d love to stay involved with them. Ever since I was 8, the Olympics were in the back of my mind. It was what I wanted to do when I grew up. The overarching themes I learned pursuing that dream, and bringing my family and finds along for the ride, made for a lot of great memories.
“Playing sports changed my life. It taught me a lot, on and off the ice. We owe it to share with other kids.”
This will be the fourth time ARMs take part in a Youth Olympic Games, following their successful debut at the inaugural summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010. According to the IOC, Youth Olympic Games fans will have the chance to put their questions directly to ARMS during informal chat sessions on the IOC’s social media channels.
Clay Latimer is a Denver-based writer who covered four Olympic Games, in addition to other sports, over 28 years with the Rocky Mountain News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.