Vancouver gold glistens brightest for Botterill

JOHN VESSOYAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:56 PM ET

WELLAND, Ont. -- The gold continues to glisten and Jennifer Botterill is all smiles.

Fresh off a winning performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the 31-year-old still has the gold medal around her neck and is proud to display it for fans who want to get a glimpse of it.

The Canadian hockey player has captured three Olympic gold medals in her career: Salt Lake City in 2002, Torino, Italy, in 2006 and Vancouver earlier this year. She also has a silver medal from the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.

On Wednesday night the Winnipeg native was in Welland for an automotive parts trades show at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, signing autographs and posing for photographs with her supporters.

With three gold medals in her pocket, Botterill said all three mean a lot to her and her teammates on those Canadians teams. However, it was the victory over the United States in Vancouver that is most special, mainly because of where the Winter Games were being held.

"Just the atmosphere there. We imagined that it might have been pretty special but it was so much bigger and better than we could've ever dreamed it could be," Botterill told The Tribune.

Botterill said she is always asked if having the Olympics in Canada was home-ice advantage or added pressure. For her it was an honour playing in front of a house full of Canucks.

"For us, our team has always thrived on at world championship. For us, thinking about that final game, it was so much fun," she recalled.

"For us to step on the ice, playing in front of 20,000 fans, 16 million people who watched (on TV). For us, it was like a dream come true to be able to play in that."

Botterill is currently playing in the Canadian Women's Hockey League for the Mississauga Chiefs. She is unsure how much playing time she has left in her, but admits she's not yet ready to retire.

"I'm at the point where I'm taking it a year at a time. This past Olympic year was obviously a huge highlight for us, and it was also a very demanding year. So I think everyone enjoyed the spring, took a little break, and it's also been refreshing and a lot of fun to get back on the ice."

"I'm still loving it."

The recent retirement of four of her Olympic teammates came as sad news to Botterill. Becky Kellar, Carla Macleod, Colleen Sostorics and Gina Kingsbury will no longer play for Canada's national hockey club. Botterill had kind words for her ex-mates.

"They're obviously amazing hockey players, but I feel like they're really good friends of all of ours. So it's definitely tough, but that's part of the process of the national team, they've each given so much to the program. They each have such balanced lives."

When she's not playing hockey or winning gold medals, Botterill is a public speaker and is also involved in charitable events throughout the country.

Botterill, who is also a five-time world champion and a two-time world championship most valuable player, graduated from Harvard University with honours. While studying psychology at Harvard, she twice earned the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top women's player in the NCAA. She is one of only a handful of Canadian women who have competed in all four women's Olympic hockey tournaments, starting with the 1998 Winter Games in Japan.

And those Nagano, where women's hockey made its debut as an Olympic sport was the start of something special for women's hockey in North America. Botterill believes that because of it more girls are playing the sport.

"If you look at how much the game has grown in the last 15 years, that was a huge turning point in terms of the exposure that it got and the number of girls who started playing the game."


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