Sudbury hockey star Rebecca Johnston is returning to the Olympic ice rink for a fourth time, this time in Beijing.
On Jan. 11 Hockey Canada released the new roster for the Winter Olympic games in Beijing for women’s hockey. Johnston, alongside fellow Olympic veteran Marie-Philip Poulin and 21 other women, will be representing Canada for the opening on Feb. 4.
“It honestly never gets old to represent your country and be able to go to the Olympics,” Johnston told Sudbury.com in a phone interview. “When I found out it was an amazing feeling, and just a huge honour. And I'm just very proud to be able to represent Canada again.”
The veteran forward and Olympic superstar has two gold medals and one silver medal under her belt. One of her favourite memories on the global stage being the fateful Sochi Olympics goal that scored her team a gold medal.
“In the finals (of the Sochi Olympic hockey games), winning the way we did ... It was just a fairy-tale ending … it was incredible being part of that game and being able to win that in such dramatic fashion.”
Over the years she garnered thousands of fans on several different social media platforms. And her parents are at the forefront of the line of support. Years ago when she did an interview with Sudbury.com, Johnston said her father was her biggest influence in life. That statement still remains true as he still continues to coach her and cheer her on hundreds of miles away.
“Every time I play, he'll watch my games and he always has some feedback for me and that's kind of our relationship,” Johnston said. “He's just so proud of my accomplishments, but he always wants to make me better and so he's kind of been that person where I look to after a game or if I need some help in an area on the ice. He's always there to help teach me and make me better and push me to be better.”
Johnston spoke from her hotel room in Calgary that she will be quarantining in for the next two weeks. With COVID-19 case counts sky high, Johnston and her teammates have been carefully training in isolation leading up to the games.
“We're all actually in a hotel quarantine right now. We just kind of go to the rink and train and come back to the hotel and not see anyone just so we're staying as safe as possible and minimizing the risk,” Johnston said.
Quarantine training is only one of the challenges that Johnston had to overcome for the past couple years. A year and a half ago, Johnston suffered a ruptured achilles injury that required surgery. For athletes, achilles tendon injuries are common, but can also be damning injuries to any athletic career.
It can take months or years to recover from such an injury. But after about seven months of rehab, Johnston was back on her feet and on the ice.
Waiting for her outside of the bubble in Calgary is her sheepadoodle dog that she got a little over a year ago, and her boyfriend. Although her hometown Sudbury will always have a special place in her heart, she has made a home of Calgary over the past seven years.
“Things have been great and (my boyfriend had) been like a huge supporter through all this because it's been a tough year,” Johnston said. “I'll be away for like almost six weeks starting from now to the end of the Olympics. So it's tough to be away that long and not be able to see him or my dog or anything.”
For now, Johnston is remaining positive with daily calls to her loved ones from her quarantine space. She said she is grateful to train safely due Hockey Canada facilitating an isolated environment. Training with her team has also been a highlight leading up to the games in Beijing.
“I mean, to be able to train every day with the best players in the world, they just push you every day and help improve your game on and off the ice. And they're just a great team, or we're all really, really close. And we have a lot of fun,” Johnston said.
After competing in three different Olympic hockey tournaments. Johnston wants to take a step back and do things a bit different for this year.
“I feel like in the past, you kind of get sucked in by the pressure and of wanting to perform and succeed,” She said. “You kind of lose track of the fun and why you play hockey in the first place. And so, this time around, I'm going to be competitive and I want to win and be the best that can be, but I also just, I want to have fun. I want to enjoy it.
“I want to be in the moment as much as I can. Because you really don't know when your last game will be with the national team, your last Olympics.”