BEIJING, China -- Donning a highly creative pair of goalie pads, the dragon motif gaining acclaim with hockey enthusiasts, Kimberly Newell (Jiang Zhou) found herself thrust into the spotlight at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in China.
One of 13 North American players playing for the host Chinese, Newell provided a series of brilliant and inspiring performances, highlighted by a shootout win versus Japan.
Finishing with a winning record in Beijing, Newell was among the finest goaltenders in the preliminary round. Posting a superlative save percentage of .955, she ranked second overall, trailing only Canada’s Ann-Renée Desbiens. In addition, Newell logged 182:46 minutes of ice time, complemented by a sparkling 1.31 GAA. Born in Nelson, B.C., Newell's previous international experience involved competing for Canada at the 2013 IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championship. Coincidentally, a handful of her teammates from that gold medal-winning roster were also participants at Beijing 2022.
Among them were Emily Clark and Sarah Nurse of the gold-medal winning Canada's National Women's Team, along with Hannah Miller (Mi Le), who also suited up for the host country. Worth noting, Miller scored China's opening goal at Beijing, the first Olympic goal for the country since its last appearance at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. Ivy League-educated, having majored in Economics and Finance at Princeton University, Newell is equally proficient between the pipes. In addition to being a four-time ECAC All-Academic, Newell won 52 games for the Princeton Tigers. She garnered Second Team All-Ivy as a junior, followed by First Team honorus to cap off her senior year. Continuing her career past Princeton, heritage motivated Newell. Having visited China as a child, there was a degree of disconnect from her ethnicity due to the language barrier. Studying Mandarin at Princeton, though, proved to be a life-changing decision. In 2019, visiting her maternal grandfather, she was able to converse with him in his mother tongue. This inspired Newell to pursue the Olympic dream. Competing with the KRS Vanke Rays of Russia’s Zhenskaya Hockey League, the only Chinese-based professional team for women, she backstopped her club team to the league championship in 2020. One year later, she captured the league’s Most Outstanding Goaltender Award, Making her Olympic debut on Feb. 4, Newell needed only 22 saves in a 3-1 final versus Denmark. Emerging victorious in her debut, she was also on the opposite end of history. With Denmark making its first appearance in ice hockey at the Olympic Games, Malene Frandsen scored at the 8:06 mark of the first period. Said goal signified a major milestone, the first scored by Denmark in Olympic history. Opposing Japan on Feb. 6, the match proved to be Newell’s finest hour. An All-Asian matchup delivered on all accounts, providing exhilarating hockey, along with the first at Beijing decided by a shootout. Recording 32 saves, Newell did not allow a goal in the second and third periods. As Japan outshot China in the third period, Newell kept her poise. Providing her team with a chance to win, she remained durable in the overtime frame, her efforts crucial in forcing a shootout.
With Aoi Shiga, Rui Ukita, along with sisters Haruka and Ayaka Toko participating in the shootout for Japan, Newell denied all four, providing China with one of its greatest wins in Olympic history, and a career highlight that shall provide a lifetime of memories for the hardworking netminder. Although China did not reach the quarterfinals, suffering a visceral 2-1 loss to Sweden in the host country's final game, the journey proved to be one that was indeed very worthwhile.
Although a series of valiant efforts by Newell and her teammates resulted in a newfound appreciation for the quality of women’s ice hockey in China, the emotional connection proved much richer.
Honouring both, her grandfather and Chinese heritage, Newell’s Olympic experience is one with a luster and prestige that exceeds any golden glories and will no doubt last a lifetime.