Chinese American Hero: Julie Chu

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chinese american heroes

Julie Chu, three-time Olympian and member of the U.S. women's ice hockey team

Julie Chu, three-time Olympian and member of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team

Name in English: Julie Chu

Name in Chinese: 朱慧雯

Name in Pinyin: Zhū Huìwén

Gender: Female

Birth Year:  1982

Birth Place:  Fairfield, Connecticut

Current location: Fairfield, Connecticut

Profession (s): Hockey Player, Athletic Coach

Education: 2007, Bachelor of Science, Psychology, Harvard University

Awards: 2014, Olympic Winter Games, silver medalist; 2012, Four Nations Cup gold medalist; 2012, World Championships silver medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2011, Four Nations Cup gold medalist; 2011, World Championships gold medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2010, Tournament MVP, Clarkson Cup; 2010, Four Nations Cup silver medalist; 2010, Olympic Winter Games, silver medalist; 2009, Four Nations Cup silver medalist; 2009, World Championships gold medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2008, Four Nations Cup gold medalist; 2008, World Championships gold medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2007, Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, USA Hockey Foundation; 2007, Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year Award, USA Hockey Foundation; 2007, Four Nations Cup silver medalist; 2007, World Championships silver medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2006, Four Nations Cup silver medalist;  2006, Olympic Winter Games, bronze medalist; 2005, Four Nations Cup silver medalist; 2005, World Championships gold medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2004, Four Nations Cup silver medalist; 2004, World Championships silver medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2003, Four Nations Cup gold medalist; 2002, Olympic Winter Games, silver medalist; 2001, World Championships silver medalist, International Hockey Federation; 2000, Four Nations Cup silver medalist 

Contribution (s): Julie Chu ties for the second most decorated American woman in the history of the Winter Olympics.  She is also only the third American athlete to have made it onto four Olympic teams in different years.  She also has the distinction of being the first Asian American to make it to the women’s Olympic hockey team.

Julie Chu’s father is from Hong Kong and studied engineering at Cornell University.  Her mother is half Chinese and half Puerto Rican.  After they married they moved to Connecticut where Julie was born.  Their family motto is: Commitment, Honor, Unity (CHU.)  Julie Chu started her career on the ice at the age of 8 when she started figure skating but soon discovered that she had little grace on the ice and couldn’t do any of the moves.  Seeing the boys hockey team play she was inspired to join them since there was no girl’s hockey team at the time.  In an ESPN interview she said, “I’d see the hockey boys on the other side of the rink playing, and I remember wanting that camaraderie, wanting to be part of something more dynamic and fun. It only took me two months to ditch figure skating and switch to hockey. I like the competitiveness of it. The game is very fast; its two-way action keeps you on your toes, always engaged.”

When asked how it was playing against the boys she responded, “It was a benefit. We started playing hockey, with checking, at 11 or 12 years old. I was the only girl on the team, but keep in mind, I wasn’t a peanut of a girl. Occasionally some of it got nasty toward me because I was a girl, but it didn’t bother me. I can hold my ground. It actually made me feel better that they were coming hard rather than treating me like I was fragile. For me it was, ‘Look, I’m here, and I want to compete. Try to knock me down because I assure you, once I get up, I’ll be looking to knock you down.'”

By the time she went into sixth grade she’d reached her adult height of 5’8 and towered over many of the boys.  No matter what they threw at her she would always bounce back and force her opponents to respect her because of her strength, aggressiveness, and power as a forward in the hockey arena.  Her skills were such that she was invited at the age of 17 as a high school student to join the US national women’s team preparing for the world championships.  As she told the Boston Globe newspaper, “When I joined the team, I was this starry-eyed kid that had no clue what was going on,” she says. “And any time one of my teammates, who were all superstars in ’98, walked by me I went ‘Ooooohhhhh.’”

Although she was eventually cut from the team she was again invited to rejoin them in 2001 in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics in which the US women’s team won the silver medal.  This was especially gratifying since the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, that year and happened in front of a home crowd.  For this honor she deferred her application to attend Harvard University until the fall of 2002.  “As much as my parents have always emphasized how important it is to get an education—my brother and I couldn’t go to practice or play with our friends until we had our homework done—they understood how important this was to me and that I was still going to end up going back to school.”  Her family was so supportive of her Olympic efforts that her father promised to get a tattoo if she made the Olympic team.  The tattoo design of the Olympic rings with Chu’s number 13 on it was soon worn by her father, mother, sister, and brother.

As a rookie at Harvard Julie Chu was second in the nation in scoring with 42 goals and 51 assists and earned the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference and Ivy rookie of the year awards.  In 2005-2006 she again took leave from her college education to prepare for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy at which the team won the bronze medal.  It was during her four years in college that Julie developed the media reputation of being the “ultimate team player.”  About her reputation as a team player she said, “What I love about hockey, besides that it’s an incredibly dynamic game, is that it’s a team sport. I get a chance to be with teammates that can rely on me, and I can rely on them. And we get an opportunity to go through this training together, trying to put all the pieces together and making sure that we’re all moving together as one group.”  She not only became team captain at Harvard but was honored as All-time NCAA scoring leader with 284 points scored in four years and recognition as the All-time NCAA assist leader with 197 assists.  She also won the 2007 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, the women’s hockey collegiate award recognizing the best player in the game.

After Harvard she joined the University of Minnesota in Duluth as an assistant coach in 2007 and helped the team win their fourth national championship.  At the same time she became a professional hockey player by joining the Minnesota Whitecaps in the Western Women’s Hockey League, winning the Clarkson Prize, the women’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup in 2009.  In 2010 she joined the coaching staff at Union College in Schenectady, New York.  She also switched professional teams, joining the Montreal Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and helping them win the 2011 Clarkson Prize.  She became the first person to win the Clarkson Prize with two different teams.

As a member of the US national women’s hockey team she has helped win the gold medal in the Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2013.  She also helped the team win the silver medal in 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2012.

At the age of 31 she was three years older than the next oldest athlete of the US Olympics team and four years older than the oldest member of her hockey team when she participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia.  “They give me a hard time about that sometimes.  Grandma or Mom comes out. But when you step on the ice, it gets wiped away.”  Although they lost to their arch-rivals from Canada and came away with silver medals, Julie Chu was selected by her Team USA for the unique and high honor of bearing the flag of the United States at the closing ceremonies, only the second ice hockey player to be so honored.  About her experience at Sochi she said, “Hopefully some young girls were inspired to play hockey. If that’s the case, I think we’ve done our job here in the sense of representing our country and our sport.”

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