Julie Chu has been a key member of the USA’s women’s ice hockey team since the turn of the millennium and will be competing in her fourth Olympic Games at Sochi. The 31-year old forward, who currently plies her trade in Canada with Montreal Stars, first set her hands on a hockey stick when she was eight.
“In a way, hockey found me,” she recalls. “My sister and I signed up for figure skating at age eight, but I wasn’t the most graceful person and I couldn’t do any of the moves. I’d see the hockey boys on the other side of the rink playing, and I remember wanting that camaraderie, wanting to be part of something more dynamic and fun. It only took me two months to ditch figure skating and switch to hockey. I like the competitiveness of it. The game is very fast. Its two-way action keeps you on your toes, always engaged.”
The gifted Chu was 19 when she made her Games debut at Salt Lake City 2002, where the Americans lost 3-2 to their eternal rivals Canada in the final. Four years later in Turin, the USA were knocked out by Sweden in the semi-finals but recovered to win the bronze, with Chu supplying two assists in a 4-0 defeat of Finland. The final at Vancouver 2010 once again pitted the two North American neighbours against each other, with the hosts winning 2-0, a result that prompted a philosophical Chu to comment: “Three Games, three medals, but no golds.”
Top of the world
“We’ve had four years of non-stop success since the last Games,” said the US captain recently. “Our team works very hard. We motivate each other and have lots of fun, which is important and helps us to face each day with a smile and lots of enthusiasm.” Chu and her team-mates won two world titles in those four years, landing gold in Switzerland in 2011 and again in Canada in 2013, beating their northern neighbours 3-2 in both finals.
Along with her mother Miriam, Chu is also devoting her considerable energies to promoting IOC partner Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign across the United States.
A two-time Clarkson Cup winner - with Minnesota Whitecaps in 2010 and Montreal Stars in 2011 - as well as a five-time world champion with the USA, and currently the biggest star in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Chu is one of the stand-out performers in a team that is desperate to deliver USA its first Olympic gold since the inaugural women’s competition at Nagano 1998. “I think my team-mates would say that I was a positive person, who works hard and tries to bring some good energy to the team,” added Chu, who will be intent on using that energy to take the USA all the way in Sochi.
© IOC/R. Juilliart
And as she explains, she and her team-mates are leaving nothing to chance. “We’re training six days a week on the ice, as well as three days a week off ice. So it’s pretty special for us to be together full-time as a group, which we don’t always get to be in non-Olympic years. Heading into Sochi we’re making sure that we’re doing everything right to prepare well and we’re going for a gold medal. We want to be the best in the world and we’re working on that right now.”
Follow Julie Chu on the Athletes' Hub.