GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – As a woman of deep faith, Gigi Marvin trusts that everything that happens in life will eventually be revealed as a blessing. That belief kept her going four years ago, when she fought through severe pain to help the U.S. women’s hockey team win a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics.
Marvin had been dealing with chronic hip injuries for months. After the Sochi Games, her body shut down to the point where it could not handle any physical exertion.
“All the muscles were just completely destroyed,” the Warroad, Minn., native said. “Everything just broke and fell apart.”
Doctors recommended surgery to repair extensive structural damage. At the last minute, she changed her mind, opting to step away from hockey for the short term in the hope of extending her career through the Pyeongchang Olympics. Those trials have made her third Winter Games feel particularly blessed, as the U.S. prepares to face Finland in Monday’s Olympic semifinals.
Marvin, 30, has one goal and one assist in the tournament. The oldest player on the team, the former Gophers star is grateful to be back in full health with a U.S. team striving for its first Olympic gold medal since 1998.
“I just needed a lot of rest and a little prayer,” said Marvin, who has played 118 international games for the U.S. over the past 12 years. “Your character is definitely tested in times like that.
“To come through on the other side and be able to play and compete, I’m just thrilled to be part of what this team is creating. This is my dream, and I’m living it. I get to do what I was created for, and I’m very thankful.”
Marvin is one of six three-time Olympians trying to bring the U.S. a second gold medal and end a 20-year absence from the top of the podium. After winning her second Olympic silver in 2014, she was forced to take a break because of the pain in her hips.
Doctors discovered that “everything was basically ripped,” she said, and she chose noninvasive treatments such as physical therapy and massage.
The following spring, she still was not healthy enough to play. Forced to skip the 2015 world championships, Marvin went on a Christian mission trip to Morocco, continuing her medical treatment during a full year off the ice.
By the fall of 2015, she was ready to return. Marvin joined the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League and played in the 2017 world championships, setting the stage for another shot at the Olympics.
“The rehab was really difficult, and I hated not being on the ice,” she said. “But I learned so many things. On the trip to Morocco, I was completely transformed on the inside, so when my body was transformed on the outside, I was ready.
“I’m a different person today than I was three years ago, without a doubt. By God’s grace, other doors opened up, but the door of USA Hockey was still there, too.”
Finland throttled Sweden 7-2 in Saturday’s quarterfinals to earn a rematch with the U.S., which edged the Finns 3-1 in pool play. The Olympic Athletes from Russia — who entered the quarterfinals with an 0-3 record — upset Switzerland 6-2 in the other quarterfinal and will play Canada in the semis.
Marvin isn’t sure how much longer she will continue to play beyond the Olympics. She’s keeping her focus confined to the short term, and the blessing of playing for a team she described as “light-years” ahead of the one she played with in Sochi.
“It’s not even comparable,” she said. “The strength, the speed, the determination, the precision, the commitment, it’s remarkable.
‘‘It’s just a joy to skate every day and live life with these women.”