Looking back

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Julie Chu says the U.S. women's hockey team felt "stunned" after the Olympic gold-medal game ended in a loss to Canada, 3-2.

We went to the Olympics thinking -- believing -- that we had prepared, and that we had the ability to win a gold medal. But that’s not the way the final game turned out. We were up by two goals heading into the last three minutes and 26 seconds. Then Canada was able to score two goals in that time to tie it up and send us into overtime.

In any type of game situation when there’s a momentum shift like that, especially in the final minutes of the game, it’s very easy for a team to become deflated. It’s easy to go back into the locker room, and everyone’s in their own world. That’s a time for a team to crumple. But I was really proud of our group. We took a couple of minutes to refocus, and after that it was, “OK, what do we need to execute well and how do we pull it back together and move forward?”

Did we have to take a deep breath after they scored their second goal? Absolutely. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.

There was a sincere belief that we could still win that game, regardless of what had happened in the previous 60 minutes. We were flying. We had some really great scoring opportunities where we potentially could have put away a goal. We call them “bum raisers” -- where you’re out of your seats because you think it’s going in.

Courtesy of Julie Chu

The team spent four years training and bonding together, and one of the toughest parts has been knowing that the journey is over, says Julie Chu.

I’m still not ready to watch those moments on film, because obviously it didn’t work out the way we wanted. Canada scored the first goal in sudden-death overtime, and that was it.

I think that’s what makes it so difficult -- we got to that point where we were so close, and then ended up falling short of the ultimate goal. The reason there were tears in some of our eyes, the reason there was disappointment, is because we trained so hard for that moment. I hope people saw that we wear our emotions on our sleeves because we’re so passionate and because we love what we’re doing.

It was hard. I definitely can’t say it wasn’t. I can’t say we didn’t feel a little bit stunned at the end of the game, though this time since the game has helped us be able to process a little bit more.

We’re still so proud to have our silver medals. We’re proud to have been able to go to the Olympics to represent our country, and to have been able to do it with integrity and honor. We’re proud to have been able to go to Sochi and play the best hockey we could.

After the game I was one of the last ones to get back to the locker room. When I came in it was pretty quiet. We all know it’s the end of our 2014 Olympic journey. That was the last time we’d wear those jerseys, the last time we’d be together as a group of 21. Afterwards we’d scatter to our different homes and teams. Four years of preparation, and we were at the end of the road.

All those emotions were running through everyone, but we were just sitting there letting everyone get back into the room. The coaches said a few words, and then we all just huddled together in a circle. We put our arms around each other and we talked about our journey as a team.

One of the things I said to the group was that we all knew we wanted a different result, but I don’t think that any one game or any one moment takes away from the process of what we’ve done this year, and we can be proud of that. It’s been an honor to be a part of this team of 21.

It’s still raw. I wanted what every Olympian wanted, and to be within less than a minute of potentially grasping that gold ... well it’s something I’m still processing. But when I look across my entire career so far with the national team, across four Olympics -- when I get the chance to share with young kids or other people about it I don’t only focus on the gold-medal game.

Courtesy of Julie Chu

Getting to meet young hockey players has made Julie Chu feel blessed to get to play at the pro level.

There are so many other things I tend to lean on and think about that get me excited. A big part of that is the people I’ve had the chance to meet along the way -- my teammates who are incredibly inspiring and passionate, strong women who are characters as well. There are moments when we are just being a bunch of goofballs and I hope no one is listening to our conversation because it’s kind of embarrassing!

Getting a chance to share our experiences with young girls and working at camps reminds me that there’s a lot that goes into this and we have been blessed with the responsibility of doing something we wholeheartedly love doing to inspire others and grow our game. And if anything, that’s going to be what I remember the most. What we leave behind isn’t only the end result of a certain medal, but how we impact the lives of someone else along the way.

For me what’s special now is to have the chance to be back home, see our families and share our silver medals and our experiences with all the people who have helped us along the way. My 5-year-old niece Sophia just looked at my medal and said, “This is beautiful!”

She was so excited about having watched me on TV. She showed me a book she’d made in kindergarten where she’d written different things she loved, like “I love Mommy,” and “I love Daddy.” A few pages in she had a page that said, “I love U.S.A.” and there was a picture she’d drawn with a hockey player in a U.S. jersey. That just made me smile so much. She turned to me and said, “I want to play on the U.S. team at the Olympics. Do you think we’re going to be on the same team?”

It put a lot of things in perspective.