Michelle L. Picard ’15-’16 keeps her Olympic silver medal in a box at her parents’ house outside of Boston. Sometimes, if her friends ask to see it, her mother brings it to Picard’s dorm in Adams House.
Picard identified her passion for ice hockey, the sport that catapulted her all the way to the Sochi Olympics, at a young age. “Basically, from right when I was born, I was in a hockey rink,” she explains. “It’s just kind of what my family did. I was put in skates just about the same time I could walk, so I got into right away and loved it and stuck with it.”
Her persistence has paid off. During her career, Picard has won two medals at International Ice Hockey Federation U18 Women’s World Championships, taken home three medals at International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships, competed at five Four Nations Cups, captained her high school hockey team, and achieved a slew of other accomplishments.
When it came time to pick a college, Picard deemed Harvard, both an academic juggernaut and a women’s ice hockey powerhouse, as the right fit for her. “I just loved that Harvard expected me to be a great student and a great hockey player, and I’d get pushed in both,” says Picard, an archaeology concentrator and women’s ice hockey team member.
But she put Harvard on hold when a little thing called the Olympics came knocking. After earning a spot on the 2014 United States Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team and completing her sophomore year at Harvard, Picard began training with her Olympic teammates in to shape up for Sochi. She recalls, “We lived the professional athlete life for those few months: Woke up. Went to the gym. Went to the rink. Came home. Made dinner. Went to bed. Repeat.”
For Picard, the Olympics seemed both surreal and familiar. “For the first game, we stepped on the ice and saw the boards that said ‘Sochi’ on it––when it hits you where you are, it is surprising and exciting, and you’re just like, ‘Wow, I’m finally here,’” she says. “But then once you start playing and you’re in the moment, you forget all that. It’s the same game I’ve been playing since I was six years old.” The American team excelled, advancing to the finals but losing the gold medal round to Canada in a crushing 3-2 loss.
Back in Boston, Picard resumed her college career as a junior in the fall of 2014. This year, Picard and Kyle Criscuolo, the captain of the men’s hockey team, started a learn-to-skate program for children in a local Boys & Girls Club. For an hour each week, Picard and Criscuolo teach the kids techniques on the ice, give them snacks, and get to know them––a program that the seniors hope will continue after they graduate.
After her time at Harvard draws to a close, Picard has plans. She may join the brand-new National Women’s Hockey League, the first-ever professional hockey league for women, and find a job on the side to supplement her income. As for a spot on the Olympic team in 2018 to fight for the gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea? “I hope so,” Picard says. “I still love playing and still love training. I’m just taking it day by day, enjoying doing what I’m doing. We’ll see what happens.”