Angela Ruggiero was elected to the IOC Athletes' Commission in Vancouver days before winning her fourth and final Olympic ice hockey medal. She retired from Team USA in December. (ATR)
(ATR) Angela Ruggiero tells Around the Rings
she "can only imagine" the discussions in store at the 5th World Conference on Women and Sport beginning Thursday in Los Angeles.
Also in this Tuesday Talk, the four-time Olympic ice hockey medalist touches upon her experience at Innsbruck 2012, her roles on the IOC Athletes' Commission and PyeongChang 2018 Coordination Commission as well as her recent retirement from Team USA.
Around the Rings:
What all will be top-of-mind this year for the Athletes’ Commission besides obviously the elections?
Right now, looking at the WADA Code is a big thing, so making sure our input is heard in those revisions.
Obviously, there’s been an extraordinary amount of interaction with the Youth Olympics, first Singapore and now Innsbruck just finished, and the athletes are a key part of that with all the involvement they have in the Culture & Education Program, so that’s been a big focus as well.
But other that that, the usual duties I think. Each commission that we represent, make sure that we’re there and that we’re communicating.
I’m excited for London. It will actually be my first Summer Olympics I get to attend. Every summer, my U.S. hockey team has always had training camp in August, so I’ve never been able to watch in-person, only from the cafeteria with my team so this will be a different vantage point.
Obviously, participating is one thing, but being a spectator is completely different.
You mentioned the Innsbruck Youth Olympic Games. What was the highlight of that experience for you? I know you were an Athlete Role Model. How did the first Winter YOG go?
Ruggiero and her fellow Athlete Role Models greeted Youth Olympians in Innsbruck. (ATR)
I thought they went extremely well. I was really pleased with, again, the Culture & Education Program. It had the same components to it, yet it was different than Singapore. As each Youth Olympics come about, I think the IOC’s always looking to tweak and improve, so it was a great program.
I enjoyed the hockey skills competition. Personally, as a hockey athlete, I thought that was great to see other countries with non-traditional hockey backgrounds be able to participate in that and do well there. And then, I guess just having the opportunity to interact with a lot of the other IOC members and have discussions.
Innsbruck did a phenomenal job. It was really nice to see the vision that President Rogge had for the Games of a more sustainable model really come to fruition in Innsbruck and to see all the existing facilities being used and all the volunteers and just to make it more feasible for other countries in the future based on what Innsbruck was able to successfully pull off.
It was fun, but at the same time, the athletes that I interacted with, at least, seemed to enjoy a lot of the off-competition stuff and hopefully got a lot out of it.
What can you tell me about the session you’ll be moderating at this week’s 5th World Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles?
I’m moderating with [former Facebook marketing director] Randi Zuckerberg.
I saw that, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister.
AR: Yeah, yeah, which will be cool to hear her thoughts in general.
Ruggiero became the first woman to play professionally in a regular season game in the U.S. at a position other than goalie when she suited up for the Tulsa Oilers in 2005. (Getty Images)
I believe I have the youth session, growing up in a gender-neutral society, so that will be an interesting topic, but above anything, just looking at the list of participants, people from around the world, all the big organizations – it’s my first Women and Sport conference, so I really don’t know what to expect, but just based on who’s going to be participating, I can only imagine the discussions and hopefully the recommendations that come out of it.
I’m really excited. I’ve been pretty involved with the Women and Sport Foundation. I’m actually on the Board of Trustees right now. I’ve been on their Board for about three years now, and I know a lot of them will be there as well, so it’s just really cool to see the global group of participants coming together for this important topic instead of just for me. A lot of the interaction I’ve had has been very domestic here in the U.S. but to see what all the other voices of the world have to say and where we’re at.
And it’ll be informative too. One of my issues that I continue to hope to help with is women’s hockey and how there’s an imbalance in some of the countries. To me, it’s
a social difference, it isn’t necessarily a hockey difference because a lot of these countries have phenomenal men’s teams. How do you overcome those social differences if women’s hockey is accepted in North America but not in Russia? So in addition to obviously the IOC, for me, it would be interesting to hear what other people have to say.
Remind me when the Coordination Commission for PyeongChang 2018 visits. That’s next month, right?
Yes, so I’ll be going over there for that.
What will you be looking to see from the organizing committee so far?
Ruggiero (leftmost) will return to PyeongChang this time around as a member of the Coordination Commission. (ATR)
AR: Just to check in, more or less. It’s our first visit, just to see where they’re at since they won the bid. I know they have their committee set up and are hopefully well into planning. It’s our first time, so I’ll be curious to see initially what progress they’ve had so far.
I mean, it hasn’t been a lot of time since the Durban vote, but hopefully enough to have the structure in place.
So this I guess will be your second visit to PyeongChang after the Evaluation Commission visit?
Yes, so obviously we’ll be looking at everything from a different viewpoint now that they’ve won the bid.
I’m going to take pictures throughout. It’ll be interesting to see. I keep saying this is one of the most interesting parts of being on the IOC here is coming from the athletes’ perspective where you show up and everything’s set, you have no questions, everything’s done for you. To see what actually goes into it, I feel really lucky having the opportunity to serve on both the Evaluation and now the Coordination Commission where really they’re building an Olympics. You never think about that as an athlete – all the many years and details that go into it, so that’ll be interesting.
Burlington, Vermont is hosting the women’s ice hockey world championships in April. Will you be attending, and what’s that going to be like now that you won’t be on the ice?
Canada beat USA 5-1 before a packed house in Innsbruck. (ATR)
[Sighs] I’ll absolutely be attending. I’ve had that on my calendar obviously as a player for awhile now, and it’s the first time the U.S. is hosting since 2001 actually so it’s been over a decade. That was a big thing for me. I really wanted to play in it, but when I realized that I was ready to retire, I still nonetheless want to go and show my support for my team and my teammates and just to be a part of it.
We’re tossing around a few ideas now about how I can be more than just a spectator, but I’ll definitely go. It will be odd. I’m not going to lie.
In Innsbruck, I was watching the boys play – the US versus Canada. I actually jumped out on the ice with the U.S. boys one day. My old coach Ben Smith – my first three Olympics, he was our coach – he was coaching the boys over in Innsbruck – so I jumped out on the ice with them and it was the same drills that I’d been used to for so many years and when they played Canada, I could feel the same sort of energy in the building, and it was bizarre to me because part of me obviously wanted to still be out there, and I know I’ll feel that way in Burlington. If I didn’t , I think that something would be wrong. After spending over half my life literally on the national team, I know I’ll miss it, but at the same time, I’m excited for what lies next.
I understand there was a brainstorming session in New York City back in December regarding USOC international relations. As you look ahead, what does the U.S. have to do to have a winning Olympic bid in its future?
There’s a number of different factors. One, I think, just international community and looking at future bids, but for me the biggest lesson I’ve seen with my time on the IOC is I believe the U.S. will always put forward a very strong technical bid. I just think that now you really have to think about what can we additionally bring to the Olympic Movement that would help not only just to win the bid but what can we do to contribute to the Olympics, to the Movement.
That additional piece I think is really what I’ll be pushing here in the U.S. whenever the time may be that we decide to bid again and whenever that time comes I’m not sure, but what is it above and beyond just simply hosting.
Interview conducted by Matthew Grayson.
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