Interview: Sammy Kolowrat

The following interview was conducted by the blogger for a piece that will be published in the March 1 edition of the Vermont Cynic. Given that the piece was about Olympic qualifiers, the questions reflect this.

TVHB: What was the travel schedule like, how much jet lag was there, and how much did it affect your game in Switzerland and then last weekend against Merrimack?

SK: My travel schedule was an absolute nightmare, to be completely honest. On the way there, my original plan was to go from Burlington to Washington-Dulles to Zurich. However, upon my arrival to Burlington, they said the flight to Washington was delayed so I wasn’t going to make my connection. I ended up taking a shuttle to Boston and flying from there.  On the way back, my flight from Newark to Burlington was cancelled so I flew to Manchester, NH the next day and had one of my coaches pick me up. The jet lag going to Europe is always worse than coming back to the States, so for the first few days I would pass out at like 8pm and wake up really early. Not to mention we were on top of a mountain so that altitude was a bit of an adjustment. After about 3 days, I was fine though.

TVHB: Though your side didn’t qualify to the Olympics this time, the team’s average age was just over 21 years old. Did this lack of experience show in the side, and is 2022 really the “target year” to qualify?

SK: Honestly, at the time I thought this year was the year for us to make it. We’ve always had the youngest team in the World Championships, which has been both a good and bad thing. I really thought our team was in our prime, with our recent successes. Looking back on it though, we definitely lacked experience and coaching. It’s just hard to think that I will have to wait another two years after I graduate to try again. I’m still debating whether I will wait it out or not, but we’ll see.

TVHB: As someone who’s come through the system in recent years, how much is women’s hockey growing in the Czech Republic?

SK: When I first started, I was the only girl on an all boys team because there weren’t any girls teams I could even play on. I grew up playing on boys teams until I was 18. The culture back home is still one where people say to me “You play hockey? Hockey isn’t for girls, you must be kidding.” I was always on the National Team with the same group of girls because there weren’t a lot of girls to even choose from. Now, there are a lot of young girls making appearances on the National Team and there are more and more girls starting to play. Even though there isn’t a very strong or successful women’s league in the Czech Republic, girls are realizing that they can play and have a future playing hockey in different countries like America, Sweden and Russia.

TVHB: You were named the best defender of the tournament. What does this mean to you, and how much does it boost your confidence?

SK: I was honestly shocked when they announced my name, but of course I was really happy. I just went out there and played as well as I could to give my team the best chance to succeed. Even though we didn’t make it this time, the award kind of validates that I did everything in my power and couldn’t have done something more on an individual level to get us there.

TVHB: You come from one pressure-cooker environment (Olympic qualifiers) to another (Hockey East playoffs). How much does this experience at playing big games for country help you when you come back to your college team?

SK: I think that the Olympic qualifiers gave me an opportunity to really test myself in managing stress and anxiety in high pressure situations. Going into the playoffs this weekend, I’ll try and get into that same mindset, because right now these games are the most important ones to not only me as an individual but to our whole team.

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