Anne Rene Despins | A “twisted” road to Beijing

An entire year without playing hockey. Participation in the NHL All-Star Weekend. The COVID-19 pandemic has canceled nearly two years of competitions.

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Simon Olivier Lorang

Simon Olivier Lorang

The Olympic cycle leading up to the Beijing Olympics wasn’t easy for any hockey player on the planet. But it was definitely more special for goalkeeper Anne-Rene Despins.

A few days before the games kick off, for the second but first time as a potential start for the Canadian team, she says she has “finally reached a high incline on a roller coaster”. We understand why.

It’s worth remembering that after the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, the home of Charlevoix thought she had drawn a line under her years as an elite hockey player. She explained that the 2014-2018 session and her prolific career at the NCAA, University of Wisconsin, left her “mentally tired.” Journalism In January 2020 *. She was thinking, at the time, of ‘Plan B’. So I completed my master’s degree in accounting and worked as a professional trainer.

It gave him time to get bored of the competition. Therefore, she took out her panties with an invitation from the camera lens to Beijing. However, women’s hockey, which was already developing largely under its male component, has seen its institutions devastated by COVID-19.

Several competitions have been canceled, notably the 2020 World Championships. The 2021 championship almost fell by the wayside, but was saved in extreme cases.

So the past 24 months were devoted mainly to training, especially in Montreal at Center of Excellence 21.02, and then in Calgary, after the centralization of the national team.

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At the end of the summer, Canada, pushed by Marie-Philippe Pauline with the goal of winning the final, won the gold at the World Championships. Then began the Rivalry Series, a nine-game round against the United States. The series was reduced to six games after the Canadians faced the COVID-19 outbreak within their squad.

In short, the analogy is not exaggerated when Anne-Rene Despins talks about the “twisted”, even “twisted” path that has led her to this day.

However, “I didn’t wish I had done it differently,” she says — though of course she would have done without the pandemic.

She feels the hardships make her “enjoy going back there more.”

“When it’s not easy, we remember it differently. It makes the experience more memorable.”

In good shape

A few days before her departure for China, Despens says she is satisfied with her “position” on the team.

Even if she refused to describe herself as No. 1 in the formation, she definitely rose through the ranks after being the 3rd guard in Pyeongchang.

Photo by Jonathan Ernst, Reuters Archives

Ann-Renée Desbiens during work on a series rivalry against the United States, December 15, 2021, in Maryland Heights, Mo.

And the signs don’t lie. She defended the Canadian net in five of seven matches in the last World Cup finals, including the semi-finals and the final. Then she defeated the American Eternal Rivals twice, and two more times in a series rivalry.

Daniele Savaggio, a well-known coach, publicly describes her as one of the three best goalkeepers in the world.

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Desbiens doesn’t want to turn things around and insists on the fact that with Emerance Maschmeyer and Kristin Campbell, who will be on their first Games, they share a mutually aided relationship. In the end, “what each of us wants is to win a gold medal.”

On a personal basis, she knows she’s “definitely calmer” than she was four years ago, and she’s better able to focus on what she can “control.” She now makes her decisions “without regrets”.

She also says she has gained confidence, and this comes at the right time as she arrived as the most experienced goalkeeper in the group and will play behind a smaller defense than Pyeongchang; Only two of the defenders have actually had Olympic experience.

She also believes that she has improved her athletic abilities, especially those related to goalkeeping position. And at 27, she believes she still has “potential [s’]to improve”.

As she warns in her voice with a smile, “This time, I intend to continue after that.”

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