Finding solace in silver medals
by Randy Pascal
The third time was not a charm for Rebecca Johnston. Thankfully, the first two times were.
After capturing gold at the Winter Olympic Games in both 2010 (Vancouver) and 2014 (Sochi), Johnston and the balance of the Canadian women's hockey
team could not complete the trifecta earlier this winter in South Korea.
The Canada and the United States, battle tested rivals, would go all the way to a shootout before the Americans prevailed 3-2. Despite getting the
better of their "south of the border" adversaries through the majority of the exhibition games leading up to Pyeonchang, as well as trimming the USA 2-1 in
round robin play, Johnston and company fell just short on the biggest of stages.
Little surprise given the lead-in that the young women who donned the maple leaf struggled with the emotions of balancing off a heart-breaking setback
with the reality of still leaving as Olympic silver medallists.
"It took a while for me to really be OK and happy and proud with bringing a silver medal home," said Johnston. "I know that might sound silly, but I
think for us, our goal the whole year was to bring home that gold medal for Canada. Nothing else would have been OK with us."
"I think that silver medal is something that we should be proud of," Johnston continued. "I've gotten so many messages from different people, saying how
proud they were, and that really made me smile, because at first, I was definitely disappointed to lose that game."
A national team member for well over a decade, the Sudbury product is no stranger to the entire package that comes part and parcel of competing in a
sport that has, quite honestly, truthfully fielded only two consistently realistic contenders for the title, almost since its inception.
"I think there is pressure for sure – hockey is Canada's sport," she said. "There is that pressure, even if it's not intentional pressure that is put on
us to bring back a gold medal. And as athletes, we are competitive and we want to do the best that we can. But the competition is really good. For us, we
shouldn't be ashamed of our result. I think it took a while for some of us, especially the veterans, to really get over that."
From a much bigger picture standpoint, Johnston is encouraged by the state of her game. "I am totally optimistic with the direction that women's
hockey is going in," she said. "In our division, you look at Russia, Finland - their younger players are really talented."
"There is a lot of hope for those programs. Japan is improving every year and doing so well. If we keep focusing on skill development in all of the
other countries, who knows what an Olympic final will be in eight years, twelve years."
As for the potential for a return for a fourth set of Games, Johnston acknowledged that she finds herself pulled in two different directions. "I
definitely don't want it to end on a silver," she insisted. "But I'm going to take it year by year."
"I obviously don't want to commit four years and not really know how my body will feel, or how I feel in a couple of years. After this Olympics, I feel
good. I'm still growing as a player, which is great. I think that there's still more that I want to accomplish."