The final details

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Julie Chu is the veteran of the Olympic team; this will be her fourth Games.

The countdown to Sochi is on.

We’re wrapping up our training time in the Boston area, where we’ve been for most of January. Right now we’re finalizing Olympic preparations and homing in on different aspects of our game to make sure we’re all on the same page when we get to Russia.

We’re focused on making sure that on all faceoff plays everyone knows exactly what’s going on, so that we’re able to execute in any situation we might see at the Olympics. We don’t want to have to spend the extra time or effort explaining what’s going on or wondering if everyone knows the right play. Continually talking about these things now is a good reminder, and it makes sure they’re fresh in our minds.

We’ve also been playing a lot of scrimmages against local boys’ high school teams and some junior teams as well. The competition is great for us. The junior boys are often around 20 or 21 years old, and a lot of them are 6 feet tall, so they have size on us for sure. We’re forced to play faster and be physical, which makes it great preparation for us. We can already see how we’ve adjusted to the speed of their game and the way they shoot, and we need these close games, where in the end we’re battling for the win.

Abelimages/Getty Images

The U.S. women haven't won Olympic gold in hockey since the sport's Olympic debut in 1998.

Off the ice we’re still training hard, but we’re also listening to our bodies and making adjustments with our coaches, depending on the day. We’re still lifting twice a week, although we’re tapering down to shorter practices and lighter weights. But it’s still a while before we compete, so we need to maintain our strength.

There’s been a lot of excitement since the Olympic team was announced, and we had a great team dinner at our coach Katey Stone’s house the other night to talk about what to expect when we get to Sochi. It’s important to talk now about how to make sure we’re making the right choices when we get to the Olympic Village.

For four years we’ve been making sacrifices that put us in the best situation to play great hockey and be well rested and competitive. But once you get to the Olympics it’s this huge event and it’s hard not to overextend yourself and do too much. We have to remind ourselves that our main focus and goal is be competitive on the ice, and we have to strike a balance where we’re able to enjoy some of what the Olympics has to offer while also conserving our energy and not being too distracted.

We were very fortunate that we raised about $120,000 for the Sochi Friends and Families fund to help our loved ones get over to the Olympics and enjoy this experience without really financially taxing them. But as amazing as it is to have our families there, that can potentially be a distraction, too, so we’re working to make sure they’ve all got their housing and tickets taken care of in advance.

We’ve also been preparing for the bittersweet goodbyes we’ll be saying to the host families many of us have been living with these past weeks and months. My host family, the Boyntons, have a big 60-by-40-foot rink in their backyard! There’s a floodlight on it, so a couple of times at 8:30 or 9 at night a few of us hopped out there with the family and had a little shooting hockey game. It was a blast. Of course, it’s not an intense game -- we’d never put ourselves in a position to get hurt -- it’s just kind of like good old-fashioned pond hockey.

We had a two-hour send-off public skate at the Edge rink in Bedford, Mass., with all the host families and the girls from the local Wizards hockey organization. We took a lot of pictures and signed autographs. We are just so grateful for the environment we got to train in here for five months.

It’s the end of a really fun chapter, but the next one is what we’ve spent four years preparing for, and we can hardly wait.

I’m actually not that nervous right now. I’m trying not to think about past experiences, or what I have or haven’t done. I know we’ve prepared well, and I’m feeling great about this team. I just can’t wait for that moment when we step out on that Olympic ice and it’s time to execute.

Julie Chu's previous blog