The road to perfection began at Mile Zero.
Melody Davidson, coach of the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team, led the team on an intensive orientation trip to Mile Zero in Dawson’s Creek last August.
The Northern B.C town, at the start of the Alaskan highway, symbolized the long and difficult road ahead.
“Nobody’s schedule can compare to ours,” Sudbury native and Canadian defencemen Tessa Bonhomme told the Canadian Press. “I have no doubts in my mind we’re going to be the best-prepared team there.”
Long days of training were highlighted by such activities as early morning 10-kilometre runs, power skating, yoga, and weight lifting.
As for on-ice training, the Canadian women will have played 55 games, many against triple-A midget boy’s teams, as well as a number of international contests leading up to Vancouver.
“Our journey to this point has been a demanding one. Our training and our competition have been more intense than we have ever experienced,” said team Canada’s Jennifer Botterill, in an article for CBC Sports in November.
“We also know that the Olympics in Vancouver will be an experience on an entirely different level than what Canadian athletes have experienced before.”
This couldn’t ring more true than for the two-time defending Olympic champions, who are under intense pressure to bring home the gold on home soil.
The Canadian squad is led by its legendary captain, Hayley Wickenweiser, and veterans such as Jayna Hefford, Jennifer Botterill and Maxime Oulette, as well as netminder Kim St.Pierre.
All have been members of every Canadian Olympic team since the inception of women’s ice hockey in Nagano in 1998.
Canada’s arch-rival is the United States and a rekindling of the Canada-U.S. rivalry at the gold-medal final is heavily anticipated.
Despite a disappointing third place finish in the 2006 Olympics, the U.S team believes it has learned from it’s mistakes at Turin, and is ready for redemption.
The Americans have won the last two World Championships, however Canada has seemed to turn the tide recently, going 7-3 against the U.S. since last Aug. 1.
Sweden and Finland are in the second tier of women’s hockey, and are expected to battle for bronze.
The Swedes finished second in the last Olympics, but have not made it to the podium during the past two World Championships.
Finland, on the other hand, finished fourth in Turin, but has won bronze at the two World Championships leading up to Vancouver.
Canada will headline Group A, along with Sweden, Switzerland, and Slovakia. The United States will be the heavy favorite in Group B, one that also includes Finland, Russia, and China.
Top two teams in each group advance to the medal round.
Now that the training is over, a new journey begins and for Botterill and her teammates, it’s back to Mile Zero.
“This road is one where we have felt tired, exhausted, sore, and spent,” she said. “With each of those feelings we have responded with resolve, determination, new found energy, and passion. This road teaches me how strong we can all be.”