Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne celebrated at alma mater
By Jason Maholy
When the gold medal was placed around Kendall Coyne's neck following Team USA's dramatic, 3-2 victory over Canada in the women's hockey championship game of the 2018 Winter Olympics, it marked the culmination of a dream the southwest suburban native has had since she was a little girl who had fallen in love with hockey.
“It was the moment I had been dreaming about since I was 6 years old, when I first found out that women's hockey was in the Olympics,” Coyne told students and staff.
The Olympic hero visited Sandburg High School on Friday, March 16 as part of its winter sports recognition ceremony. Coyne, a Palos Heights native and Sandburg alum, signed autographs, posed for photos with adoring fans and shared a few thoughts about representing the country on the grandest stage when she addressed the crowd of people gathered in the Eagle gym.
“Aside from winning the gold medal, one of the biggest and best moments was walking in the Opening Ceremony as a member of team USA,” Coyne said as she stood on a stage at midcourt. “There's no bigger honor than representing the USA at the Olympic Games for an Olympic athlete. To be able to walk into PyeongChang Stadium as a representative was amazing.”
Coyne was 15 years old when she started playing hockey with the U.S. national team, but not many people knew that at the time, she said. Not that her classmates would have necessarily reacted positively: Coyne said that during her middle school and high school years, other youths often called her names and picked on her because she played what was at the time considered a male's sport. The negativity her choice of sport elicited is one of the greatest challenges she has faced in her life, she added.
“But when I walked into a rink that was my sanctuary, it was what I loved the most,” she said. “I had the support of my family, I had a belief in myself and knowing hockey isn't just for boys, it's for everybody.”
Coyne obviously never allowed the naysayers to deter her from pursuing her dreams, and she has gone on to be one of the most decorated Olympians to hail from the Chicago area.
“If I could give you guys one piece of advice, it would just be to believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, always follow your dream,” she said. “You're at a big part of your life where you're making big decisions day-in-day-out, and the decisions you make today will have an impact on your life. So always believe in who you are and what you want to accomplish and your dreams can go a long way.”
Coyne said she has come to believe everything happens for a reason. Losing to Canada in the gold medal game in 2014 was heart wrenching, and she struggled understanding why that game ended as it did.
Coyne concluded: “But four years later, standing here with a gold medal around my neck, I now understand why.”