On Monday, I was able to catch up with three-time Olympic medalist Julie Chu, member of the U.S. Women's National Ice Hockey team, who just happens to be living and training for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia in my neck of the woods outside Boston.
I decided it was a great time to ask her to reflect back on her hockey journey over the past twelve years, and to hear about how she and her team are preparing for the challenge of replacing the Canadian women atop the podium this time around.
I was thrilled to learn that Julie is being supported in her fourth quest for that elusive gold medal by one of MomsTEAM's favorite companies, Procter & Gamble, makers of Bounty paper towels, "The Family of Picker Uppers." (Sounds like all of us moms, right? Picking up kids, from practices, games, school, and the mall, not to mention their equipment; and, of course, cleaning up their messes! The things we do for love!)
It seemed like a natural for Bounty to be teaming up with Julie and her mom, Miriam, in celebrating all the moms who are only too happy to clean up after their kids' messes around the house if it means they can spend a little more time training in order to unlock their full potential as athletes. In the spirit of the Olympics, I say, "Let the spills begin!"
More on Bounty and how moms can get involved in a minute, but first, a little bit of history and more about what Julie is thinking as she prepares for the Olympics. I have been following Julie's career ever since we first met in Lake Placid in 2002, where she was training for her first Olympics in Salt Lake City. At nineteen, she was one of the youngest, if not the youngest players on the team.
I had made the trip to Lake Placid to interview a number of athletes who were practicing and/or trying out for various teams. Over dinner with Julie and Angela Ruggiero, who was keeping a journal of her journey to Salt Lake for MomsTEAM at the time, I got to know Julie; about her work ethic, interesting upbringing, supportive family (especially her amazing mom), and her passion for ice hockey. Later, while I was hanging out at the Olympics in the AT&T Friends and Family Center, I also had a chance to get to know her mom, Miriam Chu, as well. It was no wonder to me that Miriam raised an Olympic athlete.
During our conversation, I asked Julie about the new coach of the Women's National Team, Katey Stone, one of the most successful coaches in the history of Division I women's ice hockey as the longtime head coach of the Harvard Crimson. Julie had nothing but good things to say about her former college coach, the first woman to lead the U.S. women since hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998. We agreed that she might just be what the team needed to break the Canadian women's hold on the gold medal, and bring the Olympic title back to America for the first time since the U.S. struck gold at the Nagano Olympics in 1998.
When I asked Julie what she has been doing differently this time around to prepare for Sochi, she said that the biggest difference was that she and her teammates "have been committed to their off-ice conditioning and have been more accountable to what they are doing to train during their non-Olympic years. This is just important as time on the ice." I knew how fortunate they are strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle, who has worked with many elite athletes, in their corner! (Here's a video of Mike talking with Julie's former teammate, Angela Ruggiero)
When I asked Julie about her plans for the future after the Olympics, she gave me a really great answer: "I am only focusing on the Olympics right now. I can think about my future after the Olympics. We will be there to win, and we will all have some time to have fun while in Sochi, but our main goal is to win the gold."
I think that Julie's perspective is a great one to share with kids: focus on your goals, but make sure you have fun along the way. For me, I always tell my sons that if they focus on the summit they are trying to reach, and not get too distracted from that goal, their path will be clear.
Julie will always hold a special place in my heart, along with the entire 2002 Women's Hockey Team, for surprising me with a cake and, along with my triplet sons, serenading me with "Happy Birthday" on the day I turned 50 at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. It has been a pleasure following Julie and many of her teammates, including Caitlin Cahow and Angela, these past twelve years. To watch how they have progressed in their sport has been a phenomenal experience. (Here's a picture of Caitlin, Angela, and Julie I took at Fenway Park before the 2010 Winter Classic)
Bring it on, moms!
Given all the thrills they have given me, it seems as if the least I can do in return is to support Julie and Bounty in their search for moms across the country who know that, sometimes when you have healthy, active kids, things can get a little messy!
Whether your kids are doing cartwheels down the hall or firing a slap shot into the fireplace, Bounty is saluting moms who don't sweat the mess!
So, from now until the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, sports moms everywhere can log on to Twitter and share with @Bounty stories about how they have helped their aspiring athletes to train in the home despite the mess.
For every story shared with @Bounty using the #BringIt hashtag, Bounty will donate $1.00 to the P & G Team USA Youth Sports Fund to help other athletes pursue their Olympic dreams.
Moms can also join the Bring It conversation and stay up-to-date on Julie's journey to Sochi by visiting Facebook.com/Bounty or Twitter.com/Bounty.
Bring on the world!
To get ready for the Games, the U.S. Women's National Team will be traveling around the country, participating in the Bring On the World Tour. For complete information on the Tour, including ticket information for Tour events and the entire game schedule, click here.
The final roster for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team, which will include 18 forwards/defensemen and three goaltenders, will be announced during the second intermission of the NHL Winter Classic on January 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, live on NBC.
Follow the U.S. Women's National Team throughout its journey to Sochi @USAHockey on Twitter or by liking the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team's page on Facebook.
Brooke de Lench is the Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, the author of "Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers In Youth Sports (HarperCollins), and producer/director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer." She can be reached @ delench@MomsTEAM.com