March 19, 2014

Brianne Jenner relishes gold medal victory

Brianne Jenner ’14 carefully retrieves the Sochi gold medal from her pocket and unwinds the bright blue ribbon. It’s surprisingly heavy and intricately engraved and, yes, her teeth marks are there.

She vividly recalls the adrenaline rush, the tension and the determination that led her and her teammates on the Canadian women’s hockey team to come from behind and defeat the U.S. in last month’s gold medal game at the Olympics.

But the medal ceremony is kind of a blur.

“You work for this for so long and then it all goes by so quickly,” said Jenner, a government major in the College of Arts and Sciences. “On the ice, the music was hard to hear, so all I could hear was our terrible voices singing. It was really funny.”

The Canadian team beat the U.S. women by a score of 3-2 in overtime during the gold medal game. With a little over three minutes remaining in the final period and Canada down 2-0, Jenner scored her team’s first goal.

“When I scored I was excited but not over the moon because I knew we still had one more to go to even tie,” she said. “I just tried to spark some excitement, and the team rolled with it. It was an exciting finish.”

The whole experience of the games was exhilarating for Jenner, whose parents joined her in Russia.

“Just walking out and seeing all of the Canadian flags at the opening ceremonies, it was pretty surreal,” she said. “When you emerge from the tunnel, you think, ‘Wow, I’m actually at the Olympics.’”

She saw speed skating, figure skating and men’s hockey competitions, and hobnobbed with a variety of Canadian athletes.

Jenner is back on campus, although she’s not taking Cornell classes or playing on the Cornell team. Winning a spot on the Olympic team means players take a year off to move to Calgary and train. She has another year of eligibility with the Cornell team, so she’ll be back next year. For now, she’s taking online classes offered through another university and splitting her time between Ithaca and Canada.

When Jenner was growing up in Oakville, Ontario, she could literally walk out her door and onto a skating rink that her dad created in their front yard.

Fewer than 200 meters away was another rink, the one at Appleby College, where her father worked and where she would attend prep school and play hockey. She went on to become a member of Canada’s national under-18 team in 2008 and captained that squad to a second straight silver medal in 2009.

During a visit in 12th grade, she fell in love with Cornell and has continued to rack up honors here – Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Year, ECAC Player of the Year and Cornell MVP.

Even so, the road to the Olympics is a tough one. In 2010 Jenner was invited to try out for Team Canada for the Vancouver games but was cut. Last May, she tried again, and after months of training and effort, her hard work paid off.

And even though she’s been to the Olympics, she’ll have to earn a spot on the 2018 team along with “a lot of really good young players coming up,” she said.

“I plan to take my hockey career as far as I can, but you never know what might happen in four years,” she says.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.