While many athletes dream of gold, few earn the chance to compete for it.
Joining the ranks of the few is former Ohio State defenseman Lisa Chesson, a four-year letter winner for the OSU women’s hockey team from ’05-‘08.
The 23-year-old Plainfield, Ill. native was the first Buckeye to make the U.S. Select Team in 2007, taking home silver at the 2007 Four Nations Cup in Sweden. Adding to her collection of firsts, Chesson will become the first OSU women’s hockey player to represent the United States in the Winter Olympic Games.
Although she started playing hockey for fun at the age of 6, the dream of gold became a reality after the addition of women’s hockey as a medal sport in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
No stranger to achievement, Chesson was a standout in high school and continued to grow as a player at OSU.
“Obviously not a lot of freshmen come in as complete hockey players, but she progressed a lot each year in the program … because of her work ethic and also her coachability,” said OSU assistant coach Catherine Hanson. “She also was willing to take extra time to work on parts of her game that she knew she had to improve.”
In her college career, Chesson was an assistant captain for the Buckeyes in ‘07-‘08 and accumulated three All-WCHA honors, three WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors, and the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player award in back-to-back seasons. Her career at OSU ranks her ninth in all-time scoring with 89 points and fourth in defenseman scoring in the OSU record books. She also ranks seventh in power play points with 47.
“I always thought she was a great team player; always gave you 110 percent on the ice,” coach Jackie Barto said. “She was a player that really developed over her four years. I thought by her senior year she was one of the top defensemen in the league.”
A participant of USA Hockey’s residency program in ‘08-’09 for post-NCAA athletes involved in its U.S. Women’s National Program, Chesson played with the best of the best in Blaine, Minn.
“I thought that was a great experience for her, and I could see the potential in her,” Barto said. “[I] knew that if she was given the chance to go into residency … she would work hard at it and there [would be] a lot of potential for her to be in the running to make the [Olympic] team.”
In August of ’09, Chesson became part of the U.S. National Team, and in December the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team.
Chesson said the feeling was bittersweet when she learned she made the team because two players had to be cut that day.
“I didn’t really know what to do,” Chesson said. “I’m excited and still kind of letting everything sink in.”
The U.S. National Team began its Qwest Tour in late August, competing at different venues across the United States, British Columbia and Finland. But the Olympic venue will be different for newcomers to the team.
“The atmosphere is going to be so intense, the games are going to be sold out,” Chesson said. “Just seeing everyone from across the world coming in and watching our different sports … it’s probably going to be a little overwhelming, but at the same time it’s going to be very exciting.”
Barto said she believes Chesson can skate at the Olympic level.
“This is the highest level a female hockey player can go,” Barto said. “When you can skate the game you can do a lot of things at that level.”
While Barto accredits the opportunity to play with past Olympians in the residency program as a means for positive growth, Chesson recognizes the benefits as well.
“You’re playing with the best in the world … girls who have been with the program since it started,” Chesson said. “You’re going full speed and kind of watching and learning from them.”
Barto said Chesson will benefit greatly from working with the world’s premier talents.
“I think [Lisa] was always a hard worker, but until you’re in that environment with past Olympians and training every day with them, [then] you really get a handle of it at that point and time,” Barto said.
Chesson and the other 22 members of the U.S. Olympic Team open against China on Feb. 14, followed by a game against Russia on Feb. 16.
But what is an Olympian to do come Feb. 29, the day after closing ceremonies?
“I don’t know,” Chesson said. “I still have a year of school left at Ohio and next year I’ll be back at school. So [I’m] just kind of taking it day by day.”