By Florence Schelling
Picture by: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Growing up with two older brothers that both play hockey, I was destined to become a hockey player as well. It sounds obvious, it wasn’t back then. Women’s Ice Hockey isn’t a popular sport in Switzerland, it was even less popular when I was born.
At the age of 3, after seeing plenty of practices, I told my parents that I wanted to play hockey as well. Of course, they tried to talk me out of it, as they didn’t think ice hockey is for girls. At home, my brothers would play hockey in the garage with tennis balls as pucks. There too I wanted to play with them, yet again, I got denied.
I am persistent and I guess I’ve always been, I kept asking my brothers if I can play with them in the garage, I kept asking my parents to start playing ice hockey. Eventually, it was my brothers that gave in, under one requirement, I had to be the goalie. I loved it, from the very first second on! It wasn’t long after that, that my parents gave in as well and I was able to attend hockey school, as a goalie of course!
From that day on, ice hockey has been a part of my life. I played for the same club (GCK / ZSC Lions) all the way until I was 19 years old and moved to Boston, USA to attend Northeastern University and play NCAA Division I. After my career with the Northeastern Huskies, I went to play in the CWHL for the Brampton Thunder for one season before moving back to Switzerland. In Switzerland, I played for the 1st tire men’s league (EHC Bülach) for two years before seeking a new challenge in Sweden in the SDHL (Linköping Hockey Club). And that’s where I am at right now…
Rewinding, I grew up not only with 2 brothers but with approximately 20 other boys that I ended up playing with every single year until I was 19. I enjoyed playing with the boys, it was challenging but so much fun. So, my goal was always to be on the Swiss national team and participate at World Championships and Olympic Games, but with the men! Mind you, I didn’t know that there is a women’s national team until I was 13 years old and received a call from the Swiss National team coach.
It has always been the thought of Olympic Games that got me going. It motivated me to work harder and to become better every single day. I was dreaming about Olympic Games day in and day out. When I received that call to join a camp with the senior (!!!) national team when I was 13 years old, I first thought that somebody is pulling a prank on me. A couple of days later, I packed my hockey bag and went to a camp with them.
It was in that camp, that I realized that my dream of participating at World Championships and Olympic Games could maybe become reality one day. The fairytale that I became part of seemed to have run its course and only a couple months later I participated in my first World Championship. Now, at the age of 28, I’ve had the honor to represent Switzerland in 11 World Championships, winning one bronze medal in 2012.
In addition to the World Championships and living that dream, the dream of participating in the Olympic Games never left. It even became more real when the time of the Qualification Tournaments came around and I was selected for the team playing in that tournament. I remember this tournament like it was yesterday, so many emotions were running through me. We qualified, with 6 seconds left in the last game of the tournament!
A dream come true? Not yet. Although we qualified as a team, I still had to earn my spot on the Olympic roster. Literally, every day from morning till evening, I had the thought of Olympic Games running through my mind. Every practice, every game, I tried to get better and stronger. It wasn’t always easy, it’s difficult to stay on track every day, be motivated every day. I was fortunate and it all paid off.
In February 2006, with only 16 years old, I traveled to Torino, Italy to participate in the Olympic Games. Wow! It was an overwhelming and unforgettable experience.
Now here I was, 16 years old and I fulfilled my dreams. The dream that kept me motivated and created a drive in me, puff gone! At this point I knew, I had to dream bigger than just participating in the Olympic Games. I had to dream of an Olympic Medal!
So I did exactly that. Day in and day out, I had an Olympic Medal on my mind… I think this dream was my most well-guarded secret. After a couple more World Championship and the participation at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, something big happened at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.
Although we were last after the group stage, we qualified for the quarterfinal game against Russia, who we beat 2-0 to advance to the semifinal of the Olympics (this is crazy!). In the semifinal, we faced Canada, to whom we’ve lost 3-1 (best result ever!) and went then on to play Sweden for the bronze medal.
The bronze medal game was a game with lots of ups and downs, an emotional rollercoaster! We were down 2-0 after two periods and had one more period to play to be able to realize our dreams. The previously mentioned fairytale was still running its course and we were able to turn that game around and win an Olympic Bronze Medal! A dream come true!!!
To me, the Olympics are addicting. I always wanted more, so to me, it was clear that I will train for another Olympics. That 4-year cycle after Sochi was the cycle of hell. One injury after the other… Started off with a foot dislocation, followed by a torn MCL and ACL and lastly a torn Meniscus. These were the main injuries, but there were many smaller injuries that aren’t worth to be mentioned.
For the first time in my career, I had to handle a downfall. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. It’s frustrating. Doing rehab every day, getting better, then a setback, getting better, then a setback again, getting better, etc. The list goes on, but to be able to fully rebound from such injuries it takes a lot of patience, which I didn’t have. Through these injuries, I got to know my body a whole lot better and am able to train way more specific to my needs than I ever knew before. Plus, I still had a dream to follow… Olympic Games participation, check! Olympic Medal, check! So, what is my dream now?
In the 2006 Olympics in Torino, we got 7th place. In the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, we got 5th place. In the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, we got 3rd place… Now I let you do the math on what my Olympic Dream is now as I am embarking on the airplane to Pyeongchang for my 4th Olympic Games. 😊