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D.C. Area Well-Represented in Olympic Field Hockey

By Evan Pioch
|  Monday, Jul 30, 2012  |  Updated 2:48 PM EDT
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Keli Smith-Puzo brought both sons with her while she trained in Chula Vista for four months. At 33 years old, she is the oldest member of the U.S. field hockey team. Second son Ian was born in August 2011.

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The D.C. area is well-represented on the U.S. women's field hockey team, with two former University of Maryland Terrapins and a Centreville, Va., native on the roster.

Here's a closer look at all three:

Two-time Olympian With Two Kids

Keli Smith-Puzo is the oldest member of the U.S. field hockey team. At 33, she’s only nine years younger than the head coach. A true veteran of the sport, she has been an active member of the squad for the better part of a decade.

Her first big taste of national success came in 1999 as a member of the NCAA national champion Terrapins. A three-time All-American Smith-Puzo was also named to the ACC 50th Anniversary Team in 2002.

The 2008 Olympic team didn’t perform up to expectations, managing just an eighth-place finish, but Smith-Puzo collected three goals in the competition (and another two in qualifications).

The past two years have taken her life on a bit of a different path. She has given birth to two sons -- Xavi (January 2010) and Ian (August 2011). In between the two, and while three months pregnant, she played an international game against Argentina and decided that she still had a shot at making the 2012 Olympic team. Just six weeks after giving birth to Ian, Smith-Puzo was back it at.

Her first game back was in January 2012 when she scored both of the U.S.’s goals. Soon after she moved to the field hockey training center in Chula Vista for four months to train, and the growing family went with her.

“Having Keli come in and go to her second Olympics now,” said U.S. field hockey coach Lee Bodimeade, “and have two kids and still be here at the peak of her game is really great for the sport.”

Smith-Puzo knows the family is calling, and this is most likely going to be her last Olympics.

“Everything good comes to an end, and I know that this is my time to go, and I feel confident that it’s time to be with the family full time after this, and I’m just going to try to take it all in and enjoy every moment," she said.

Golden Girl (Hopefully) Makes Golden Return

Katie O’Donnell wasn’t born with a field hockey stick in her hands, but just three years later she had one.

Thirteen years after getting that first stick, O’Donnell became the youngest member of the national team at 16. During her first three years of college at Maryland, she led the Terps to two NCAA national championships, collected the Honda Sports Award as the nation’s top field hockey player and became the first field hockey player to be named the Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation -- and she still has another year before graduation

Internationally she hit a bit of a speed bump in 2008 when she didn’t make the Olympic team for Beijing.

“I was a little timid at the time,” she said. “I was so worried about making mistakes that things weren’t good for me.”

That same day, O’Donnell became determined to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

It was never really up for debate. In 2009 O’Donnell was named the starting center for the national team and has since become one of the most decorated players in history.

“Where she is right now, I expect her to do very, very well at these Olympics” said Bodimeade.

Field hockey may come naturally to Katie O’Donnell, but she is still very humble about it.

“It has been a long, long process and I’ve gone through so many ups and down, but I’m at the pinnacle of the ups right now and it doesn’t get much better than this,” she said.

A Drag Flick Away From Giving Up The Sport

The story that follows Centreville, Va., native Claire Laubach is an interesting one, but Bodimeade admits he’s glad to have her back.

“To see that [hard work] come to fruition, where she’s applied herself and now [she] is reaping the rewards of some tough decisions," Bodimeade said.

In college Laubach lead the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to NCAA national championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004 while anchoring a defense that allowed just 15 goals the entirety of the 2002 season. Following college she joined the national team in 2005, but it didn’t go as smoothly as planned. Like O’Donnell, she was left off of the 2008 Olympic team, but unlike O’Donnell she was demoted to the development squad following the decision.

“It would have been very understandable for her to move on with her life … to come back and really knuckle down, I love the story, it’s really fantastic,” Bodimeade said.

Instead of giving up on the sport she loved, Laubach put more time and effort into it. She mastered the drag flick skill and became lethal off of penalty corners and earned her spot on the national team.

“I haven’t thought about it much, I think a lot of other people that know my story get caught up in it, but for me, because of the journey that I’ve taken, it isn’t something that I’ve forgotten, but it also isn’t something that I carry with me,” she said.

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