Noemi Neubauerova ’22 is gearing up for something she’s wanted since she was a child: the Olympics.
Neubauerova, a Colgate hockey player, will be competing for a medal with the Czech Republic women’s national hockey team at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The tournament starts Feb. 4.
The forward, who hails from Praha, said she’s ecstatic to represent her country and be part of the first women’s hockey team from the Czech Republic to play in the Games.
“The Olympic Games is something you dream of as a kid and making it there seems almost impossible to believe,” she said. “When we qualified in front of all the fans and my family and friends, it was just such a special feeling that I cannot even describe. I just remember watching the clock as the last seconds of the game were going by and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, we did it.'”
The feat marks the third consecutive time Colgate women’s hockey will be represented at the Winter Olympics. The Raiders’ previous Olympians were Livia Altmann ’19, who played for Switzerland at the 2014 Games, and Nicole Gass ’16, a member of the Swiss team in 2018.
The Czech Republic qualified for the Olympics by beating Hungary 5-1 in November. Neubauerova picked up an assist in the win. She finished the qualification tournament with three goals and two assists.
At the Olympics, the Czech Republic is slotted in Group B with Japan, Denmark, Sweden, and China. The top three teams advance to the knockout phase.
The U.S. and Canada, the two heavyweights of women’s hockey, are the likely choices for the gold and silver. But the bronze is up for grabs, and the Czech Republic will have a shot at the medal.
Neubauerova said her team will begin camp in December, followed by scrimmages against Japan before shifting to Beijing in January.
The senior is a psychological and brain sciences major with a minor in writing and rhetoric. She spent the previous summer playing for the Czech Republic. She was back in Hamilton for the fall semester, and played a few games for the Raiders before she returned to Europe for the Olympic qualifying tournament.
She did all this without compromising her education. Faced with four Colgate courses in the fall, Neubauerova was granted permission by professors to complete her work while she was overseas. Her plan is to return to Colgate after the Olympics.
“It has definitely not been easy juggling academics, hockey at Colgate, and the national team, but I have been lucky enough to have great professors who are very understanding and classmates and teammates who are always there when I need notes or any help,” she said.
Colgate Head Women’s Hockey Coach Greg Fargo said Neubauerova expressed her Olympic aspirations during the recruitment process.
“We are really excited for Nemo to have the opportunity to play in the Olympics,” he said. “We’re 1,000 percent behind her. We can’t wait to watch her play.”
Fargo said Neubauerova has blossomed as a hockey player since her first year on the team.
“The way she moves around the ice, her skill level is among the best in our league,” he said. “She plays with such confidence. She plays with such a physical, tough game. Others have a difficult time taking the puck from her. She has an incredible ability to shoot the puck and has found a really good chemistry with players on the team.”
The Raiders have four 20-win seasons and two NCAA Tournament berths in the last decade. This year, the team finished the fall portion of the schedule with a 15-4-1 record. The final game was a 2-1 win over No. 3 Minnesota.
Fargo said the success of the Colgate women’s hockey program is drawing interest from more players with Olympic dreams.
“We want people to know that if you come to Colgate, you can do anything you want to do,” he said. “If you want to be a doctor or an Olympian, you can do that here.”
Neubauerova began playing hockey at age 6. She’s the first member of her family to play the sport. Growing up, her favorite player – and a source of inspiration – was a fellow Czech Republic teammate who also played on the boy’s team and was the best player on that roster.
At Colgate, Neubauerova said she’s grateful for the experience as a Raider.
“All of my four years, I have had the most caring, funny, and talented teammates,” she said. “I appreciate all of the hard work put in by the whole staff from coaches to trainers, and all the people at Colgate assuring they give us the best college hockey experience possible.”