The upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be Team USA hockey captain Meghan Duggan's third time representing her country on the ice, but the excitement of attending the games never gets old. On top of competing in eight world championships during her career, Duggan has played on the American women's hockey team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, followed by the 2014 Sochi Olympics where she served as team captain. In February, the two-time silver medalist will return to her role as captain and hockey forward, and this time, she plans to return home with the gold.
"This is something I’ve trained for and lived for and made sacrifices for really my entire life," she tells Bustle. "I’ve wanted to win a gold medal in the Olympics since I was 12 years old, and that drives me every single day. It’s where I live and what I eat and how much I sleep."
That's no exaggeration. Now 30 years old, Duggan learned to skate in her hometown of Danvers, Massachusetts, at the age of three after watching her older brother play hockey. "Like most young girls with an older brother, at that time, I wanted to be just like him," she says. As it turned out, though, Duggan had a knack for the sport: "I kind of loved it from day one."
Her interest in hockey became a lifelong passion in 1998, when the American women's hockey team defeated their arch-rival, Canada, at the Olympics in Nagato, Japan. Duggan, 12 years old at the time, resolved to win her own gold medal one day. "I remember after that day telling everyone I knew, 'I’m gonna fight for team USA. I'm going to win a gold medal. I want to win a gold medal and go to the Olympics,'" she says. "I would say the fire was lit in me back then."
After that, Duggan focused her energies on the path to professional hockey, enrolling in a private high school known for its hockey program. Later, she attended the University of Wisconsin, where she played for its division one hockey team while earning a degree in biology.
After appearing in her first world championship with the U.S. national team in 2007, she has played professionally for both the Canadian Women's Hockey League and the National Women's Hockey League in the U.S. For nearly four years, she has served as the U.S. national team captain, and she has attended each Winter Olympics since 2010. Somehow, despite her busy career, she has managed to pick up tennis, golf, and cycling in her off time.
She may be a familiar face at the Olympic Village by now, but she says each experience is just as thrilling as the last.
"It's such an honor, such a privilege, and it’s a feeling you can’t really explain," she says. She admits that the first games might have been the most exhilarating, but each time she returns, she wants to perform better than before. "Leading into my third games, I’ve been there. I know what I need to do, trying to lead my team to that gold medal," she tells Bustle. "So there’s so much excitement around each opportunity that you have, to put on that jersey and to play for your country."
It's a good thing Duggan seems to thrive on pressure — the American women's hockey team hasn't won a gold medal since the '98 Olympics that inspired her exactly 20 years ago. In the last two games, Team USA has lost the gold medal to Canada. Needless to say, fans have high expectations for its performance at the PyeongChang Olympics.
"It’s certainly a storyline right now, that it’s been 20 years, and it’s no secret to our program or any of us that have been there that the last couple times we’ve gone to the Olympics, we’ve come up short of our ultimate goal, which is the gold medal," she tells Bustle. Duggan, however, says she is fired up rather than stressed out. She continues, "I think it’s just excitement. It’s hunger. We’re ready to go. It’s been a really positive and encouraging four years since the last Olympics, and we’re more excited than anything."
As for her plans for after the Olympics? "I think as an elite athlete and someone who’s been really preparing for these games for my whole life, but more specifically the last four years, it’s hard to look beyond," she says. That being said, she tells Bustle that "being able to go back and spend time with your family in your hometown and really just thank them for support... is certainly something that’s first on my list."
To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Winter Games begin LIVE Feb. 8.