Women’s Olympic hockey team wins gold for first time in 20 years, provides inspiration for young female athletes

The United States Women’s Hockey team brought home the gold at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 

The team beat their rival, Canada, in a nail-biting shootout to claim Olympic victory for the first time in 20 years, only the second time in U.S. history.  

Four years ago, the team suffered a heart wrenching loss in Sochi, Russia, and since then, they’ve been fighting on our own soil, battling for equal pay and equal support in a male-dominated sport. Last year, the U.S. women’s hockey team threatened to boycott the world championships to protest unequal pay and treatment from USA Hockey,  eventually resulting in more just treatment from the league. 

The two sides came to an agreement, and the U.S. women’s team went on to win the 2017 championships. Winning at the Olympics provides another level of publicity and honor. 

The struggles these women have faced were momentarily forgotten when 20-year old goalie Maddie Rooney saved the last shot in the game-ending shootout, securing the gold for the Americans. 

“They had waited four years for this moment. Every practice, every sprint, every wall sit dedicated to now,” ESPN reported.  Rooney, along with the rest of the team, realized this as well. 

These two teams have a particularly rich history, often competing in close games. The Canadian women’s hockey team had not lost an Olympic game since the U.S. team beat them in the gold-winning game in 1998.  

The U.S. has watched their international neighbors earn gold medals three consecutive times since then. On the Canadian side, the team’s and fans’ disappointment was palpable—many players took off their silver medals once they received them. On the American side, however, the women celebrated with unbridled joy. 

 “It was about Team USA last night,” team captain Meghan Duggan said, according to USA Today. “And when I think about the way we looked at each other on the ice after, the time we spent in the locker room together after the game, the win was about our team, our program, our country and we couldn’t be more proud.” 

Many Americans at home were so devoted that they stayed up until 2 a.m. EST to watch the game and root for the U.S. The match showed the skill of both teams, as the U.S. forced overtime with a late goal to tie the game 2-2. 

Forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson was able to score in the shootout, using what she calls her “Oops, I Did It Again” shot, giving the U.S. a 3-2 lead with one shot left. Suddenly, the fate of the game and the hope of gold were left to the young goalie Rooney, who is not even old enough to remember the last U.S. gold medal in women’s hockey. The deft save prompted an immediate celebration.

USA Today summed up the importance of this win: “Beaming brighter than the golds around their necks, the U.S. women gave the next generation of girls something to aspire to.” 

Many of these women had grown up watching their heroes on-screen; now, they have become role models for a new generation of girls. This, along with their victory in terms of equal pay, will guide a nation full of young girls to aspire to do whatever it is they set their heart on. No medal can adequately express the hope this team has given to many.

“What this group has been able to accomplish is way beyond sport,” forward Gigi Marvin said according to ESPN.