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  • Ruggiero Reflects on IOC Career, Future


    02/28/18

    Angela Ruggiero (ATR)

    (ATR)  Olympic ice hockey gold medalist Angela Ruggiero enters a new phase of her career this week.

    After eight years as an IOC member, her term is over. She was elected in 2010 as a member of the IOC Athletes Commission. But she finished the final two years of her mandate as the commission chair, which comes with a seat on the IOC Executive Board.

    Ruggiero, 38, began her Olympic career as a 17-year old member of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team that won the gold medal at the Nagano Olympics. She competed in three more Games before retiring from competition. 

    “I’ve volunteered to make athletes lives better and that’s what I’ve done,” Ruggiero tells Around the Rings in an interview during the last week of the PyeongChang Olympics.

    “It’s crazy to think my time is up. Eight years goes by very quickly,” she remarked just ahead of her final weekend on the IOC, filled with responsibilities. 

    Wide Range of Duties 

    She handed out gold medals to the U.S. women’s hockey team. She participated in the Executive Board meeting on the Russia doping sanctions. On the protocol side, Ruggiero played host to Ivanka Trump when she came to PyeongChang for the closing ceremony of the Games.

    The doping crisis in Russia has been a persistent issue for her and the EB since the Rio Olympics.  While at odds with some fellow athletes, Ruggiero says she opposed a blanket ban on Russian participation. 

    “If you put your entire life on the line, when you literally dedicate everything, I would not want politics to interfere in your ability to compete and reach your dreams. Protecting clean athletes is at the core of what we do,” Ruggiero says about the complicated issues she faced on the EB.

    Ruggiero may be leaving the IOC, but she still will keep a seat on the Ethics Commission, elected last September to a four-year term.

    She has been serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors as one of the three IOC members in the U.S., but that status is now over. She’ll be succeeded by Kikkan Randall, the U.S. cross country skier who was elected to the IOC Athletes Commission in PyeongChang.

    Issues of Sex Abuse in Sport

    She made her final appearance as a member of the USOC leadership at a press conference on the eve of the 2018 Olympics. That briefing was dominated with questions about the aftermath of the sex abuse scandal involving USA Gymnastics.

    “I think this is another unfortunate situation,” says Ruggiero.

    “I’m incredibly proud of the athletes who have come forward. They are brave and have shed light on a horrible situation,” she says.

    “It’s
    a tragedy on the gymnastic side but it’s the first time that we as a community are dealing with safe sport. Our job is to protect athletes. Our job is to protect sport.

    “Without doing that the Olympics go away. Without doing that youth sports goes away,” Ruggiero warns.

    Brains to Science 

    Ruggiero is also keen on addressing another health issue for ice hockey as well as other sports, concussions. She acknowledges suffering such injuries throughout her career on the ice.

    “I am donating my brain for research when I pass,” she says. 

    “When I had a few concussions as a player I thought it was important to raise awareness, what can I do to make the sport safer?”, she asks.

    Fellow hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser of Canada, an IOC Athletes Commission member, has also donated her brain to concussion research.

    Ruggiero says eliminating concussive injury and other risks for young athletes must be addressed by sports leaders.

    “How do you get kids to participate in sports if the parents know they’re going to get concussions? Or the potential that some will get abused? Or involved with doping? All the risks we see in sport, our job as administrators, whether the IOC and NOCs or federations is to mitigate that risk, to make sport safer kids,” she says.

    The Next Chapter: Sports and Technology 

    Moving ahead after her work as an IOC member, Ruggiero says she will devote her energies to the business she started, Sports Innovation Lab, based in Boston, Mass. https://www.sportsilab.com/

    “The reason I started it is the need in the market. Technology is changing every aspect of sport. Performance, prevention of injuries. Off the field in broadcasting, how digital new media such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence is changing sport. We’re building a software powered firm at the intersection of sports and technology,” she says.

    “I love sports. I love technology. I love helping the movement. If I can bring all those forces together to help shape the future of sport, that’s what our company is trying to do,” says Ruggiero.

    Ruggiero demurs when asked whether she is interested in a leadership role in the International Ice Hockey Federation one day.

    “Women’s hockey needs the support of the IIHF. Having women in leadership roles there will make sure they’re thinking about growing the sport. All federations need to think about bringing women in because if you think about growth as an organization, the trajectory of women sports is where the real growth opportunities lie opportunities are, while on the men’s side its stagnant are going very slowly. It’s good for business.”

    Reported by  Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.

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