This past February, after a long day tromping around Pyeongchang, assessing the South Korea city’s chances of hosting the 2018 Winter Games, Angela Ruggiero made her way to the hotel gym for a killer workout.
I know, because I was already there, on the treadmill, putting in my miles. For the next hour, while the Olympic athlete put herself through this grueling workout, and the sportswriter trudged along, we talked about how hard it was to stay in shape on the road.
By that point last winter, Angela — winner of four Olympic medals, elected after the Vancouver Games to a spot on the International Olympic Committee as a member of its athletes’ commission — had been living out of a suitcase for about 100 days on Olympic-related business.
To know Angela is to know that she doesn’t do anything half-hearted. She’s all in. Which explains why she announced Wednesday that her playing days are over.
Understand — she doubtlessly could have made the USA women’s team that will play at the Sochi 2014 Games, and will probably challenge there for the gold medal.
But to do what she is being asked to do now, to be the athlete’s voice in forums around the world, demands her “complete heart and dedication,” as she put it in a call Thursday with reporters.
It’s just time to move on, she said, with the class and grace that has always marked her way in these sorts of things.
Sometimes these things can be complicated. But when you look at it the way Angela did, and you handle it the way she did — really, it’s easy.
Angela made the effort Wednesday to travel to the team camp in Minnesota to tell her teammates the news before it became public.
She played more games in a Team USA sweater than anyone else — 256. She finished her international career with 208 points, with 67 goals and 141 assists. She won the four Olympic medals, one gold, in 1998, when she was the youngest player on the team — and said Thursday it was probably her defining moment because being on top of the podium is “the pinnacle of our sport.”
Angela played for the United States in 10 women’s world championships, winning four; in 2005, she scored the winning shootout goal.
She was an all-American in all four of her seasons at Harvard. As a senior in 2004, she won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the top player in Division I women’s hockey.
She was the first female non-goalie to play in a professional hockey game in North America; she played alongside her brother, Bill, for the Central Hockey League’s Tulsa Oilers in a game in January, 2005.
“Angela Ruggiero has defined this era of women’s hockey,” the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Rene Fasel, said, and that pretty much sums it up.
What Angela aims to do now is pretty simple. There’s a next era.
Someone has to be the voice for that next era. It’s a full-time job.
“I’m urging countries like Russia and the Czech Republic, which have outstanding men’s programs, to support their women’s programs,” she said Thursday, adding a moment later, “The game will continue to elevate and that’s what’s exciting … what I’m hoping is that some of these other countries will elevate at a faster level.”
There’s more on Angela’s plate, too: representing the United States in international circles in the IOC; serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee board; maybe going to business school.
“There wasn’t an a-ha moment,” she said about this transition. “It was more of a cumulative moment. The biggest thing for me was the cumulative responsibility I have to the IOC and the USOC and I’m really passionate about that.”
She also said, “I still love hockey. I’m just at a different stage in my life.”