beijing: when brianna decker fell during the us first term. uu. Women’s hockey team’s first match at the 2022 Winter Olympics Suffering a fractured left fibula and torn several ankle ligaments in a gruesome fall against Finland, the defending gold medalists lost their backup captain and star center to the rest of the tournament. but they also gained a trainer.
“Now we call her coach decks,” says forward abby roque, “because she has a new role that helps us with everything we need, just being a voice for all of us, telling us what she maybe sees in the stands and just expanding. she has really had a huge impact on this team.”
Reading: Us women’s hockey team injury
coach decks is also not a novice in this regard. In addition to working various youth hockey camps over the past decade, the 30-year-old served as an assistant on the American bench at the 2019 U-18 World Championship in Japan, where his bright-eyed charges included current players. from usa uu. defender caroline harvey. “She expects a lot from you,” says 19-year-old Harvey. “But she’s definitely still as intense as a coach as she is as a player. she goes hard.”
The scene of Decker lying on the ice in pain was harrowing, made worse by the sounds of his screams echoing through a nearly empty wukesong sports hall. “When I was able to look at the iPad in the bank again, I basically wanted to puke for the entire first period after that,” says Roque. But almost as soon as the stretcher took her away, Decker’s mind turned to her teammates. That’s why she was waiting on crutches to congratulate them after a 5-2 win, and why she decided not to return to America for surgery to stay in Beijing.
“It just shows how much he means to this team, his leadership abilities and how he’s able to lead some of the darkest moments in his personal life,” says captain kendall coyne schofield. “She’s an amazing person and an amazing player and her presence is definitely hers is still felt and appreciated, and her leadership shines through in every game we play.”
This includes the usual games of euchre, a team card game in which decker and roque play against fellow forwards amanda kessel and alex carpenter in the olympic village. (“I think we’re just having bad luck,” Roque laments. “We make all the right calls, we just can’t get a good hand.”) On the other hand, if Decker had his preference, he would be at the track on the day. and the night watching his companions skate. “That’s what’s best for me,” she says. “I want to be close.”
processing the damage has been a difficult mental process, especially since his third Olympiad was less than 10 minutes old when it happened. “A lot needs to be established,” she says. but she has also been buoyed by an outpouring of support from teammates, opponents and beyond. “[to us. speedskater] brittany bowe has been great,” says decker. “and then i talked to nina o’brien,” the american alpine skier who broke her leg in the giant slalom. “we had a little chat on the side to another, and we just checked in, so that’s been nice.”
coach decks take a similar approach with their teammates, watching games from the stands and then appearing in the locker room to offer their perspective. “She has respect in the locker room that I don’t have, because she’s walked through fire with those guys,” says head coach Joel Johnson. “When she says things, she means something in a different context, she says it with a different influence than when any of our coaching staff shares it.” Johnson also solicits Decker’s opinion on matters ranging from days off to the general mood of the roster. “We are certainly taking advantage of a difficult situation by including it as much as we can,” he says.
one such moment came after last week’s preliminary round loss to canada, when the us. uu. she outshot her rivals 53-27 but only beat goalkeeper ann-renée desbiens twice. “I think it was quite comforting to all of us exactly how she was talking about the game and how great we looked,” says Roque, who took on the second-tier role of Decker focused on Carpenter and Kessel. “She’s cool, nice, pretty inspiring and she can pick on you when she has to.”
Of course, her teammates would rather she just take off her cast and hit the ice, if not for Monday’s semi-final rematch against finland, then for the gold medal game against canada they all they assume will follow. “I don’t think anyone can fill Brianna Decker’s shoes,” says Roque. “nobody can really do brianna decker like she does.”
but, as johnson said, they’re making the most of the circumstances: when decker recently ditched the crutches and switched to a knee scooter, his subsequent entry into the us. uu. the dressing room was commemorated by someone who put “riding” by chamillionaire, they see me rolling…hate me…patrolling and trying to catch me riding dirty…over the speaker system.
“Look at some of the athletes who get injured in the Olympics,” Decker says. “Your tournaments are over. fortunately I can still have an influence in the locker room, as far as helping them on power plays, being an eye in the sky, making sure that I can give them certain tips here and there to help them look at the game a little bit differently. .”
Spoken like a real trainer.
more coverage of the olympic games:
- kaillie humphries and elana meyers taylor lead the way for women in sledging
- respecting the sheep: behind the design of the impressive track beijing slide
- brendan brisson raises medal hopes for young american men’s hockey team
- super-g le remind mikaela shiffrin that she is still who she thought she was