Coach Tara Watchorn, who competed in women’s hockey at the 2014 Olympics as part of Team Canada, shares what it was like attending the opening ceremony in Sochi, scoring a goal in her first game, and seeing her name spray-painted on snowbanks.

How did it feel to make the Olympic team?

Pretty unbelievable. Every decision I’d made in my life was made with that dream in mind. To have it pay off was awesome—it was an honor.

What were some highlights from the Games?

It’s a blur. You prepare so much leading up to it that I couldn’t tell you a lot of details. I did score a goal in my very first game. The opening ceremony is also unforgettable. It is a great moment of celebration for the athletes as you can’t help but think about all the hard work it took to get there. Sharing that moment with other athletes from your country and around the world is very special.

The 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia.

Image Credit: Russian Federation

Canada's Women's ice hockey team, including Coach Watchorn, celebrate their gold medal win at the 2014 Olympics.

Photo Credit: M. Smelter

How did you manage nerves or stress prior to competing?

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my Olympic experience was that preparation equals confidence. Our team trained for nine months leading up to the Olympics and pushed ourselves further than we ever thought was possible. By the time we got to Russia, we just got to perform, lean on our teammates and have fun. All the preparation is done at that point; it’s time to play. In big moments like that, I try to be in the moment—whether I am spending time with family in the village, or the puck is about to drop.

What did it feel like to win gold?

A relief. After the initial excitement of making the team, my first thought was: “Oh no. Now we have to win.” Canada had won the last three Olympics at that point—it’s an expectation in our country—and you really feel that weight. It was pure relief and joy.

What do athletes do during downtime?

Hockey is one of the longest sports in the Olympics that takes place over almost the entire duration of the Games. When we weren’t performing, we were either training/preparing, getting treatment, eating or spending time with family. We also had some cool common spaces in the village that we shared with other Canadian athletes, so we got to hang out with people from the other sports. Ping pong was very popular. As some of the earlier events conclude, you can sense a lighter atmosphere in the village. There’s some celebrating.

Watchorn, with friends, family, and local and regional leaders at the installation of a sign commemorating her achievement.

Was there one thing you couldn’t wait to come home and tell your family and friends?

My hometown of Newcastle was so supportive and amazing during the entire Olympics. They hung signs around the town and spray painted my name in snowbanks. They also invited everyone to the local town hall to watch the gold medal game. When I was finally able to make it home, I was excited to share the gold medal with them. Newcastle was a big part of my journey and success.