Ice hockey-American Coyne Schofield cuts new path for girls in sport

FILE PHOTO: Ice Hockey – 2019 Women's IIHF World Championship - USA v Canada - Espoo, Finland - April 6, 2019. Kendall Coyne Schofield of USA in action. Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivsto via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Kendall Coyne Schofield never wanted to be a figure skater.

She preferred spending hours playing the informal game of shinny hockey with her older brother but found herself in a pair of figure skates aged three with the rest of the girls at the local ice rink when it came time for skating classes.

Coyne Schofield, who would grow up to become an Olympic gold medallist in ice hockey, lasted two days before she insisted on skating with the boys on the NHL-style rink.

Today, she's gunning for a spot at the Beijing Games in an entirely new era for girls sports.

"Girls are growing up knowing that there is a place for them in this sport," said Coyne Schofield.

"We're not where we need to be - we have a ways to go - but I’ve worked with thousands of girls and they don't have older brothers. They just started the game because they may have seen me, they saw my team mates, they saw women’s hockey on TV."

The 29-year-old, who won Olympic gold in 2018 and silver in 2014, hopes to inspire the next generation with her new book "As Fast As Her: Dream Big, Break Barriers, Achieve Success," which melds memoir with practical advice for young adults.

Coyne Schofield has made a career out of breaking barriers - becoming the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in 2019 and being hired as a development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks a year ago.

"People see me in a Team USA jersey, but they don't necessarily know everything that it took to get that jersey, to wear that jersey and to be in the position I am today," she said. "I'm excited for people just to hear my journey."

The next step in that journey could very well be Beijing 2022, as she has trained full-time since Oct. 1 in Minnesota with other hopefuls for Team USA.

The 23-player U.S. roster is set to be announced Jan. 1.

The squad will walk into the Beijing Games with a target on their back after they ended Canada's streak of four back-to-back Olympic golds in Pyeongchang.

"Because we've won the gold medal, you can look at it like... the hunting versus hunted kind of mindset," she said.

"When we go into the Olympic Games, we’re expected to come home with a gold medal, and I know our opponents are expecting that of themselves as well."

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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