SOCHI, Russia – On Friday, four-time Olympian Julie Chu’s list of accomplishments grew a little longer. She was selected to lead the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team into Sunday’s Closing Ceremony as flag bearer, cementing her status as one of the greatest female winter Olympians in U.S. history.
Chosen by fellow Team USA members, the standout ice hockey forward was left nearly speechless after receiving the honor.
“I’m completely humbled and kind of in shock. I never imagined that this would happen, especially knowing how strong the U.S. delegation is,” said Chu. “Our team has so many inspiring athletes who I’ve gotten a chance to root for. This is special and I don’t take it lightly.”
The most veteran member of the women’s hockey team, Chu has medaled with Team USA at every Olympic Winter Games dating back to 2002 – earning one bronze medal (2006) and capturing three silver medals (2002, 2010, 2014).
She is tied as the second-most decorated U.S. female in Olympic Winter Games history.
“I’ve had amazing teammates along the way and an incredible support system with my family, friends, USA Hockey and the USOC – there are so many people who have made it possible for me to be at the Olympic Games four times,” said Chu. “It’s not about me; it’s about everyone who has been a part of this journey and about our team of amazingly strong women.”
Chu added to her legacy after winning her third silver medal Thursday night in a thrilling, hard-fought game that ultimately ended in a 3-2 overtime loss to rival Canada.
“We’ve gone on an incredible journey the last four years. Especially this year, we’ve had to dig deep and push hard – we’ve grown and we have a lot to be proud of. One game doesn’t define how I think about this team. I’m just proud to be another part of this group.”
With a shot at an elusive gold medal, Chu characteristically placed last night’s results into perspective.
“Hopefully some young girls were inspired to play hockey. If that’s the case, I think we’ve done our job here in the sense of representing our country and our sport.”
Having joined the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team in 2000, she captained the U.S. to the 2013 World Championship gold medal and back-to-back Four Nations Cup titles in 2011 and 2012. In total, she’s competed in nine world championships, claiming five gold medals.
“With this honor, Julie joined a distinguished group of athletes who have been selected to serve as flag bearer for Team USA, and I’m thrilled to congratulate her,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “She has been a tremendous ambassador for her sport and our athletes, and will continue to be a world-class representative of our nation at the Closing Ceremony and beyond.”
Chu is the second ice hockey player to serve as flag bearer for Team USA. Cammi Granato first held the honor in 1998 after leading the U.S. women to the inaugural Olympic gold medal at the Nagano Games.
When asked about her next steps, Chu is focused on remaining in the present and soaking in the experience.
“I wish I knew what’s next for dinner. I think our focus as a team was Feb. 20 at 9 p.m. Our hearts and souls were poured into that moment – competing as hard as we could during that time,” she noted. “To be honest, I haven’t thought a lot about after that.”
In what may be her final Olympic appearance, the Harvard graduate will walk into Fisht Stadium carrying every Olympian’s dream – an honor fitting for an exemplary athlete on and off the ice.
U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM FLAG BEARERS – CLOSING CEREMONY
1960 Donald McDermott, Speedskating
1964 Jean Saubert, Alpine Skiing
1968 Tim Wood, Figure Skating
1972 Barbara Ann Cochran, Alpine Skiing
1976 Sheila Young, Speedskating
1980 Eric Heiden, Speedskating
1984 Phil Mahre, Alpine Skiing
1988 Bonnie Blair, Speedskating
1992 Bonnie Blair, Speedskating
1994 Dan Jansen, Speedskating
1998 Cammi Granato, Ice Hockey
2002 Brian Shimer, Bobsled
2006 Joey Cheek, Speedskating
2010 Bill Demong, Nordic Combined
2014 Julie Chu, Ice Hockey