Rockville, Md., native and member of the U.S. Olympic women's ice hockey team Haley Skarupa will join a long list of Maryland athletes to compete in the Olympics when the 2018 Winter Olympics begin in February.
"You kind of dream your whole life for this moment," Skarupa told
Glenn Clark Radio
. "It's the upmost honor every time you put on the USA jersey, you get the chills."
In her first Olympics, Skarupa -- a Boston College graduate turned professional hockey player -- will join a group of Olympians from Maryland that includes Michael Phelps (swimming), Katie Ledecky (swimming), Carmelo Anthony (basketball) and Kevin Durant (basketball), among others. In addition to Skarupa, Howard County resident and short-track speedskater
will compete this winter in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"It's pretty cool to see a bunch of Marylanders being represented in the Olympics," Skarupa, 24, said. "It's super exciting for the area, and I think it kind of proves that we can hold our own out there."
Skarupa was 4 when women's ice hockey was added to the Olympics in 1998.
"Once I saw them playing on TV, it was immediately a dream that I wanted," Skarupa said. "Ever since I've been striving toward that."
When she started playing for the U-18 National Team, that's when she realized how real her dream was becoming.
"You spend a lot of time around the senior National Team players and the Olympians and you kind of follow their habits and it starts to become a little bit of reality that if you put [the work] in you can reach your goals," she said.
With the NHL not participating in the 2018 Olympics and Canada coming off four straight gold medals in the sport, Skarupa said she knows the pressure is on, despite the U.S. winning gold at the World Championships in 2017.
The U.S. won the first gold medal in women's hockey and has finished with silver or bronze in each Olympics that followed. Skarupa said she has had people tell her they are excited to tune in to the women's games, especially without the NHL there, and she said she is looking forward to playing in that spotlight.
"We do a good job of channeling that [pressure] into positive energy," Skarupa said. "It has helped us a lot to prepare and to come up with a game plan because we know there's going to be a target on our backs and we are definitely ready for that and it kind of excites us."
Skarupa said she enjoys playing against the Canadian team.
"It is a very intense and incredible rivalry," she said. "We love playing against Canada, [we are the] two best teams in the world; it's always a back and forth battle. There's always action… [but] you never know what you're going to get when you play Canada; it's awesome."
During Christmas break, Skarupa skated nearly every day with current and former members of her junior women's hockey league team, the Washington Pride.
"It kind of just shows that it doesn't matter where you're from," Skarupa said of her journey. "You can get the same experience and preparation from youth hockey [and] high school to be able to reach your goals and dreams."
For more from Skarupa, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of USA Hockey