U.S. women’s hockey player Julie Chu will have the honor of carrying the American flag in the Winter Olympics’ closing ceremony Sunday – a triumphant moment that will hopefully ease the heartbreak she’s still feeling from her team’s shocking loss to Canada on Thursday.
“We never lost the belief that we could win the gold,” said the Fairfield, Conn., resident. After leading 2-0 with just four minutes left, the U.S. team ended up losing the game 3-2 in overtime.
“When that final puck goes in, I think that’s the moment where it dawns, ‘OK, what we believed in that moment didn’t come true.’ But we still have belief in each other and how proud we are. That defines us,” said Chu. “Not just one game.”
At a post-game news conference, Chu and other players – some wiping their eyes – thought back on all the things they could have done to bring home the gold.
“It’s hockey; it’s a game,” said team captain Meghan Duggan, of Danvers, Mass. “There are 1 million mistakes that are made in a game, 1 million balances that go your way. At the end of the day, I think our team put a good 60 minutes-plus [on the ice]. It was a great hockey game to be a part of.”
It was Canada’s fourth consecutive gold in Olympic women’s hockey, three of them at the expense of Team USA, which last won in 1998.
“By far, this was the most devastating loss for me, and for a lot of our teammates,” said Amanda Kessel, of Madison, Wisc. “We felt we had the gold in our hands, and we never gave up. But things didn’t go our way.”
Added Duggan: “You have to look at it as the glass half full, or you can’t move on. We’re a powerful group of women. We’re lucky that we have each other to share in this moment, and to get through the heartache of it.”
Said women’s coach Katey Stone: “There’s a difficult feeling in their stomachs right now, and that’s completely understandable. But I couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve done, and were asked to do, and committed to do, and dedicated themselves to for years to be in this spot.”
Chu agreed. “We all felt so much love this entire Olympic journey,” she said. “We’re proud to represent Team USA. I think every time we get to be on that stage and on that ice wearing a U.S.A. hockey jersey is an amazing day.”
•Reporting by JOHNNY DODD