NEW YORK -- Historic Times Square in New York City was transformed into a makeshift winter sports wonderland when several Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls descended Tuesday to mark 100 days before the start of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Dozens of American athletes representing more than 15 sports made appearances in Midtown Manhattan with one of the biggest moments of their sporting careers on the horizon.
For the hockey players in attendance, it was a crucial turning point in their march toward Sochi.
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"Now we're just looking at the final preparations to fine tune all our systems," said forward Josh Sweeney, a former member of the United States Marine Corps who captained the U.S. sled hockey team to a silver medal at the 2013 World Championship in South Korea. "Our passes need to be crisp. We need to be working off of each other and working with each other. That's what it comes down to."
The sprawling event was intended as a fun-loving spectacle featuring an ice rink, curling demonstration and other interactive games. But for the athletes taking part, it was one of the final benchmarks leading up to an event they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
"I think when you get within 100 days to Sochi, the focus only intensifies even more. We know that time is limited. It seems like plenty of time, but in a lot of ways it isn't," said forward Julie Chu, who has helped the U.S. women's hockey team win a bronze and two silvers at past Olympics. "We're trying our best as a team to prepare on the ice and off the ice. Just creating a great dynamic and challenging ourselves to be the best we can each day."
In just over three months, athletes from around the world will be making their way to Sochi to compete at the highest level in an event that will ultimately define their respective legacies in their sport. That's why the next 100 days should prove so crucial in fulfilling their Olympic dreams. Although these athletes are already dedicated to training year-round, the real hard work is about to begin in the quest for gold.
"Right now, we're not changing a lot in our training. The reality is that we've done a lot of preparation to this point that has really helped us," Chu said. "If anything, we're just ramping it up."