Wickenheiser not ready to skate away

Tue Jan 14, 2014 12:00pm EST
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By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - Canadian Hayley Wickenheiser has been at the forefront of women's ice hockey for nearly 20 years and is one of the sport's most decorated players, yet the aspiring doctor feels she can still improve.

The 35-year-old veteran of four Olympic Games, whose career accomplishments include three Olympic and seven world championship gold medals, stays invigorated with an ever-changing workout regimen and a genuine love for the game.

"I just really love to play the game and I always think that I can get better and develop into a better player so it kind of keeps me motivated," Wickenheiser told Reuters during a phone interview from Calgary, Alberta.

"I can probably do another (Olympic) cycle but at this point there is lots to figure out. I probably will make a decision like that after the Sochi Games are over and just see where I am from a physical standpoint and also from a life standpoint."

Wickenheiser, who has been on Canada's national team since she was 15, has a kinesiology degree and wants to attend medical school, something that will factor into her decision on whether to keep playing beyond the February 7-23 Sochi Olympics.

As Canada's all-time leading scorer, her eventual retirement will mark the end of an era for a team that has reached the gold-medal game of every Olympics since its debut on the Games program in 1998.

But in Russia, Wickenheiser and her peers will be under the microscope as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) looks to see if the wide gap that remains between powerhouses Canada and the United States and the rest of the world is closing.

Following the 2010 Olympics, former IOC president Jacques Rogge put women's hockey on notice when he said "we cannot continue without improvement."   Continued...

Canada's (L-R) Tessa Bonhomme, captain Hayley Wickenheiser and Haley Irwin celebrate their gold medal victory over the U.S. in their women's ice hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics in this file photo from February 25, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol/Files