Most of the attention surrounding the Olympic Games is focused on the athletes who represent their home countries. However, there are Olympic participants who received the honor of being selected to represent their countries in a different and important way.
Alicia Hanrahan is one of those individuals. She was one of three women selected from USA Hockey to officiate women's ice hockey in Sochi, Russia--a dream of hers that became reality after years of officiating hockey at the international level.
"I’m extremely honored and proud to represent my country," Hanrahan told BlueJackets.com. "This has been a goal of mine for the past six years and has been a dream of mine since I was a kid when the 1984 Olympics were in Los Angeles. For me, this shows that my hard work has paid off."
As a southern California native, Hanrahan was actually not exposed to ice hockey until she attended a boyfriend's hockey game in her twenties. She became so fascinated with the sport that she asked him to teach her how to skate, and she hasn't looked back since.
"I fell in love with with the speed, and the finesse and skill is so exciting to me," said Hanrahan. "Anything I am truly passionate about I like to learn about from every angle, so I joined a women's recreational league and then started coaching youth hockey."
Not long after she laced up her first pair of skates, Hanrahan decided to join family members in Ohio to continue following her passion for hockey. She heard about the passionate sports fans in Columbus and wanted to contribute to the enthusiasm and atmosphere surrounding the city.
"With the start up of the Blue Jackets and the intensity of Ohio State Buckeye fans, I knew Columbus was going to be extremely passionate for hockey one day," said Hanrahan. "I just knew it was going to be a growing hockey community and I wanted to be a part of that.”
In Columbus, Hanrahan began officiating youth and adult hockey leagues through USA Hockey. She captured the attention of the USA Hockey organization and was invited to a camp, where she was evaluated and licensed in international officiating. Though it took nearly two years for the call to officiate an international tournament, Hanrahan knew her patience and persistence would pay off. She then relocated to Minnesota because the sport was much more accessible there and presented her with more officiating opportunities.
Then, after a few more years of hard work, Hanrahan received the phone call in December that she would be headed to Sochi.
"The Olympics are the biggest stage in the world," said Hanrahan. "I still can't believe it sometimes that I'm going. It’s nice that the hard work I've done is paying off with being rewarded like this.”
The hard work did not end with just that phone call, Hanrahan added. The hard work had only just begun.
"As far as preparing, a lot of it has been working on my focus, my mental strength, and not letting the hype get to me," said Hanrahan. "I've been taking on a lot of games and putting myself in a hypothetical situation of if I were officiating the Olympic game right then. Because it is such a big stage and I know there’s going to be a ton of pressure and a ton of fans, I know I have to keep my mind sharp."
To see Hanrahan's officiating in action, women's ice hockey at the 2014 Olympic Games will take place Feb. 8-20.