Jan 20, 2014

Minnesota hockey Olympian connects faith and competition


(CNS photo/Bruce Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully
Catholic News Service

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (CNS) -- In the midst of final preparations for the Olympics, U.S. women's hockey player Anne Schleper (at right in above photo) said faith definitely plays a role in her games.

In an interview three weeks before the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Schleper, a Catholic who is a native of St. Cloud, said it would be easy to idolize the evaluation of her coaches or a potential medal around her neck. But she is humbled to remind herself that she plays to glorify God.

"I wouldn't be following his will if I wasn't inviting him to the rink also," said the 23-year-old, an alumna of Cathedral High School and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in St. Cloud.

"Life goes too fast to try and please another human or to work tirelessly for an item that will eventually perish," she told The Visitor, newspaper of the St. Cloud Diocese. "There is freedom in my life and in my play when I fix my eyes on Jesus and not on this world."

Schleper, who was named to the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team roster Jan. 1, began playing hockey at age 4 in the pre-kindergarten program at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex. Today, hockey is her job, but it's one she loves, she said.

(CNS photo/Tom Szczerbowski, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Preparing for the Olympics required countless hours of off-ice weightlifting and on-ice skill practices. She left the house many days at 8 a.m. and didn't return until 5 p.m. In addition to practicing, she needed to pay close attention to her nutrition, sleep habits and body maintenance.

Off the ice, Schleper (center in photo at right)  participates in a Bible study with fellow hockey players. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, she was part of a Bible study group in college as well.

Schleper played for the hockey program at the athletic complex in St. Cloud until junior high when she switched to the St. Cloud Icebreakers, a team composed of players from three St. Cloud high schools.

At the University of Minnesota, she notched 28 points in helping the Gophers win the 2012 national championship. She finished the season as the school record holder in most career games played.

She also was a member of the 2008 United States Under-22 Team and a two-time member of the U.S. Under-18 Team, including the 2008 team that won the gold medal.

She played for Team USA in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships.

After college, she moved to the East Coast to play for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women's Hockey League.

  • Schulzetenberg-Gully is a staff writer at The Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud.