From an American Coffee Shop to the Swiss Olympic Team

Jessica Lutz is a 24-year-old barista from the DC area, with plans to become a nurse. She’s also an Olympic athlete.

She’s what you call a Renaissance woman.

Source: NPR (Coffee prepared at The Coffee Bar in Washington, DC)

I got the chance to talk to her this week from Switzerland. A dual-citizen [her father is Swiss], Lutz will be competing at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi for the Swiss ice hockey team.

2013 was a busy year for the young athlete. Between wrapping up her pre-requisite classes to prepare for an accelerated nursing program in the Fall, making countless lattes at DC’s newest coffee shop, The Coffee Bar, Lutz trained – hard – with a local men’s team.

It was not unusual for Lutz to train with boys. She knew she wanted to play ice hockey at age five. At the time, there weren’t any girl’s teams in the area. Most of the girl’s teams were in the upper Midwest region. Determined to get on the ice, she started skating lessons at age five, found a hockey school to learn the basics at age seven, and by age nine, there were enough girls to make a team – a single team. She grew up playing against all-boys-teams in an all-boys-league. That, of course, came with many stereotypes. “A lot of us grew up playing with boys, but we enjoyed femininity…and ice hockey.”

For most of her high school years, Lutz traveled back and forth to the Midwest, sometimes packing in five games in one weekend. Eventually making it to a Division-1 team at the University of Connecticut, Lutz graduated in three years to get closer to her Olympic dreams. With her eye on making it to the national team, she moved to Bern, Switzerland in 2010.

Lutz picked up a few more skills in order to survive as a professional athlete since her college degree didn’t exactly transfer in Switzerland. She was a nanny, a candle-maker in a factory, a fitness trainer, and a waitress. All while playing on two teams.

After becoming eligible to play for the Swiss team, Lutz competed in a few tournaments including the World Championships in April 2013, moved back to DC last Spring, and waited, patiently. In January 2014, she was officially selected as one of 21 women to represent Switzerland in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

When I asked Lutz about how she’s feeling about the Olympic Games, she said, “I’m excited. People say world championships don’t compare, there’s just so many more athletes and none of us are used to that much media attention.”

Historically the U.S. and Canada have taken the number one and two spots in the Olympics. But the Swiss team is not far off; in fact, the team is aiming for the Bronze this February. The players are back together after being apart for most of the Summer and Fall of last year – relearning what it means to be a team.

It’s been a whirlwind experience getting to the Games, but she made it. And her family and friends couldn’t be more proud. Lutz laughed as she said, "I felt Swiss growing up. Then I lived there and felt American….but my dad is proud. He’s super proud and excited.”

The Swiss team plays the U.S. on February 10th. We’ll have an update from Lutz on her experience in Sochi as the games progress.