In less than a month, eyes will turn toward Sochi, Russia for a few short weeks as the 2014 Winter Olympics captivate the world.
Ohio State fans should especially keep their eyes on the women’s ice hockey tournament as three former Buckeyes are slated to compete for gold.
Former Buckeye defenseman Emma Terho (née Laaksonen) and forward Minttu Tuominen are competing for Finland, while Natalie Spooner, who holds the OSU record for goals scored in a career, plays for the Canadian national team.
Terho, who is preparing for her fifth Olympics with Finland after winning bronze in 1998 and 2010, said she believes each Olympic Games is different and she is going to enjoy every second this time around.
“I think I have learned to enjoy the entire journey leading to the Olympics and learned to live in the moment and that way, I get the most out of it. I’m very excited about the event right now,” Terho said in an email.
Named Finland’s Player of the Year in 2002 and 2006, Terho was inducted into the Women’s Varsity “O” Hall of Fame in 2009.
Tuominen is set to play in her second straight Olympics and was Terho’s teammate when Finland earned its bronze medal in 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“There’s a fire in me that wants to have that feeling again, winning and holding an Olympic medal. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Tuominen said in an email.
Tuominen most recently competed at the Four Nations Cup in November with Terho, in which Finland defeated the U.S. team, a result that has given Finland confidence heading into Sochi.
“We have had a great season with the national team … beating the USA in Lake Placid … we just need to keep playing the way we have and improve from there as the tournament goes on and the stakes get higher,” Tuominen said.
Spooner is participating in her first Olympic Games with Canada, who was won the last three gold medals.
Despite never appearing in the Olympics with Canada before, Spooner has been involved with Team Canada since 2007. She has played on the Under-18 and Under-22 teams, and she competed in her first International Ice Hockey Federation world championship with the senior team in 2011, which won the silver medal.
Also competing at the Four Nations Cup last November, Spooner scored the game-winning goal in a 4-2 victory against the U.S., a performance she said will help her in February.
“I guess knowing that I can contribute in big games helps, leading into the Olympics,” Spooner said in an email.
With Canada and Finland paired together in Group A alongside the U.S. and Switzerland for the Sochi Games, it won’t take long for Spooner and Tuominen, teammates for three years at OSU, to get reacquainted.
Tuominen said she is excited for the game but also knows she has her work cut out for her when Finland plays Canada in the preliminary round Feb. 10.
“Natalie is a great person who has worked hard for this,” Tuominen said. “It will be a great challenge to try and keep her from scoring.”
In the end, no matter what the final score might read, all three athletes are excited to be a part of such a historic event.
“I’m expecting a month of great atmosphere and excellent challenges on the ice,” Terho said. “Hopefully, I can be the best I’ve been and have a great experience with my team.”