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Angela Ruggiero isn't getting older -- she's getting better

October 16, 2009 |  2:49 pm

Like most athletes as they age, three-time U.S. Olympic hockey medalist Angela Ruggiero of Simi Valley realized that her 29-year-old body wasn’t rebounding as quickly as it used to after games and workouts.

Intent on helping Team USA return to gold-medal glory in February at the Vancouver Games, she worked out with male hockey players this summer at the Athletes Performance training facility at the Home Depot Center in Carson. She emerged leaner and stronger—and believes she might have added 10 years to her playing career.

Ruggiero spent May, June, July and part of August at Athletes Performance as the only woman in a training group that included Chris Drury of the New York Rangers, George Parros of the Ducks, Orange County-raised Richard Park of the New York Islanders, former King Noah Clarke—now playing in Switzerland--and other pro players.

She said she lost eight pounds of fat and added six pounds of muscle, all while enjoying the work.

“For me it was really cool,” she said from Spokane, Wash., where the U.S. women’s national team will face Canada tonight at 7 in a game televised by the NHL Network.

“I actually played against Noah growing up in California, when I played in Pasadena, so it was really neat for me not only to train with pro guys but train with some of the guys I grew up playing against. Now we’re all adults and still playing hockey, so it was kind of a thrill there.

“I’m 29 years old, I’ve played in three Olympics and done quite a bit of off-ice training in my lifetime but this was definitely the best summer training I’ve ever had.”

Varying her workouts helped, she said, as did the intense drills and being pushed by the guys.

“I spent two, 2½ hours in there each day and I felt I got something out of it each and every day,” she said. “It wasn’t just going through the motions or just trying to get through a workout. We were actively engaged in each and every exercise. Their philosophy was just amazing. The technology they have is second to none….

“Really, it was like I was a little kid because I felt that I was learning something every day and challenging myself in a way that I hadn’t been able to do before. When I got to training camp in August I felt better than I ever have.”

The U.S. and Canada are fierce rivals in women's hockey. The U.S. women lost their last game against Canada, 3-1, on Oct. 5 but have won six of the teams' last nine games. The U.S. is ranked No. 1 in the world now but will go to the Olympics as the second seed based on its ranking after the 2008 world championships.

“Which is fine by us,” Ruggiero said. “All the pressure’s on their shoulders because they’re the defending gold medalists and they’re hosting the Olympics and that’s their national sport. So I think there’s more pressure on their side, but our team has high standards.”

-- Helene Elliott