Cayla Barnes of Team USA's Women's Hockey Team Shares Her Experience at PyeongChangn

Standing at only 5’1”, 19-year-old Olympic Gold Medalist Cayla Barnes doesn't seem like much of a threat at first glance. However, as soon as she hits the ice, Barnes is a force to be reckoned with. Cayla Barnes, born January 7, 1999 in Eastvale, California, is the youngest player on the US Women’s Hockey Olympic roster. However, despite her age, Barnes is no rookie when it comes to playing at the National and International level. She is a three-time member of the US Under-18 Women’s Hockey National Team and is the only player in U-18 World Championship history to win 3 gold medals. She joined the Women’s Senior National Team program in December 2016, and then later started her 4-year career with the Boston College Women’s Hockey Team in August 2017. However, after only 5 games with the Boston College Eagles, Barnes was called up to the US Women’s National Team where she immediately began training with the team as they prepared for the 2017 Four Nations Cup and the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Cayla will return to Boston College in August 2018 to restart her freshman year, both athletically and academically.

 

Cayla Barnes with 4 other Boston College Eagles (2 other current & 2 who have graduated)

Cayla Barnes, #3, & Hilary Knight, #21

After a thrilling win against Canada in PyeongChang that earned US Women’s Hockey their first Olympic gold medal in 20 years, I was able to ask Cayla some questions about her experience at the Olympics playing with the National Team. Read more about Cayla & her experience in PyeongChang below!

 

 What was it like being called up to the Senior National Team and then also making the Olympic Roster?

Being called up to the National Team was an amazing honor. I was very shocked at first but extremely excited. Being on this team has been a dream of mine since I was little so making the final Olympic roster was literally a dream come true for me.

 

Was it difficult for you to choose between BC & the US Team? What was the tipping point that got you to say yes?

No, it was not. I knew I had to leave BC and my coaches/team were supportive 100% of the way. You only get so many chances to realize your dream and I knew I need to take this opportunity. I knew I could still regain eligibility for my freshman year so it was a no brainer on what to do.

 

What has it been like transitioning from college freshman at Boston College to youngest player on the Olympic roster for the US Hockey team? What were some of the challenges in joining the team?

The transition was a process. At first, it was definitely hard to adjust. Going from being around kids your age to being around women with families and husbands is quite the difference. Also, being an adult and living on my own was tough. I had to pay rent, handle paychecks, and cook for myself which is something I wasn’t used to. However, once I adjusted and got to know everyone, the process got easier, and I gained 22 sisters from this process.

What was it like walking in the Opening/Closing Ceremonies in PyeongChang?

Walking in the opening and closing ceremonies was truly unforgettable. Walking among so many incredibly athletes and people is so empowering. Bringing the whole world through sport on those nights is something truly special, and those moments I shared with my teammates and fellow USA athletes are some I wouldn’t trade for anything. They did a wonderful job at the ceremonies, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of.

 

Who has/have been the coolest olympian(s), besides your teammates, that you have met in South Korea?

Meeting Shawn White and Lindsey Vonn was probably one of the coolest things. They are such decorated Olympians, and it was such an honor to share some conversation with them. We also met the Shibutani ice dancers, and they were amazing! Our team became close with the curlers, and it was so fun to cheer on Team Shushter to their first gold medal in history.

 

What has it been like living in the Olympic Village?

The Olympic village was amazing. I lived in a 5 man apartment with my teammates. Our USA building was great, and it was so cool to walk around and see all the countries with flags on their buildings. Also, the athlete dining hall was awesome as there were people and foods from all over the world in one place.

(photo from Cayla Barnes)

Who would you consider your closest friend(s) on the National Team?

Kali Flanagan, my roommate and incoming BC senior, was probably who I was closest with on the team. I became close with everyone over this experience. There wasn’t one person I did not feel comfortable talking to or hanging out with.

 

What’s your favorite piece of the Team USA gear?

Definitely our opening ceremonies jackets. They are so cool looking and warm. They have a built in heater so that is also super cool.

 

(photo from Cayla Barnes)

What has been your favorite, non-hockey moment in South Korea?

Spending time with family and friends was always a highlight. Cheering on other sports was so fun. We got to go to the beach one day, and it was gorgeous! Definitely a highlight.

(photo from Cayla Barnes)

What went through your head when you and the National Team won gold? Has it set in that you’re an olympic champion, or are you still on cloud nine? What are some of the fun ways you have celebrated gold with your team?

When we won, pure joy and excitement raced through me. It was such an intense moment and so fun to share with my teammates. We have trained so hard and wanted this so bad and to finally see it happen is so rewarding. We are still on cloud nine and  will be for a while. We have celebrated gold by spending time with family and friends. We just returned to the states and were on Ellen and are going to be honored at various NHL games. We are really looking forward to that time to soak it all in.

 

What is it like knowing that you are an Olympic gold medalist at only 19 years old?

It’s incredible knowing I got to experience this so young. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and so glad that this was the team I got to experience this with. There are simply no words for how amazing this has all been.

 

What’s next for Team USA? Do you get time off or is it right back into training? What’s next for you until you return to BC in the fall?

We are currently on a media tour for two weeks so we will be traveling a lot. After that we get to go home and rest for a while which is much needed. After a couple weeks, I will start training again and getting ready to return to BC in the fall. In these next six months, I plan to just enjoy all that comes my way and prepare for BC. I’m looking forward to rest and spending time with my family.

(photo from Cayla Barnes)

Sources: 

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https://www.americamagazine.org/sites/default/files/main_image/20180213T1328-14564-CNS-OLYMPICS-HOCKEY-WOMEN.jpg

https://pix.avaxnews.com/avaxnews/55/bf/0004bf55.jpeg

https://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/interactive/2018/02/sport/winter-olympics-cnnphotos/media/03-olympics-0211.jpg