In June 2013, goaltender Alex Rigsby was riding high.
Rigsby, one of 23 members of the 2018 Olympic women’s hockey team, had just finished her junior season at the University of Wisconsin and the Sochi Games were just a few months away.
Team USA head coach Katey Stone walked into the Lake Placid room where the hopefuls gathered. Three goaltenders would be going to Russia and four were present; “Rigsby” was never called.
“It was heartbreaking,” she told amNewYork while promoting her participation in Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Team USA Contenders Program, which assists 41 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls with their preparation for the 2018 Winter Games. “You work so hard, train so hard, that’s your dream that you want to play in the Olympics.”
Olympic glory should have been the culmination of a long journey for the Wisconsin native, one in which she always needed to earn respect.
“I grew up playing boys hockey because girls hockey was never an option,” Rigsby said. “Every season, I felt I needed to earn the respect of my teammates — making sure that I deserved to be there and proving that I deserved to be there.”
College was the first time Rigsby ever played against other women. Her senior year, she became the first Badgers goalie to be named captain.
When graduation approached, Rigsby had a choice. She could try to play professionally or take up a spot on the U.S. national team. Four IIHF Women’s World Championships later — including a 1-0 overtime shutout of Canada in the 2016 gold medal game — Rigsby knows she made the right choice.
“Just looking back at where I am now mentally and physically, I am in such a different place for the better,” she said. “It’s exciting to look back at how much I’ve grown over the years, just as a person and as a player.”
Four years have passed since that rejection in Lake Placid, and the Olympic dream awaits in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“I’ve grown up watching the opening ceremonies and saw all these elite athletes going through it and trying to imagine what it would feel like going through those tunnels and coming out into all those fans,” said the 25-year-old Rigsby.
“It would really be a special moment.”