Click the play button above to listen to the story of how these team handball players took unusual routes to the Olympic Games, what it was like to meet the president and their lives since.

Angela Ruggiero and Cammi Granato Ferraro


Growing up often as the only girl on their respective hockey teams, Cammi Granato Ferraro and Angela Ruggiero felt they had to prove themselves every time they laced up their skates.

“Every single time I got on the ice I had intent and I had a chip on my shoulder,” said Ruggiero, who played on Team USA in four Winter Olympics. “I had to be the best. I wanted to beat everyone out there. And it just shifted my mindset to being completely present on the ice as opposed to just a kid having fun and going through the motions. I didn’t feel I belonged. I had to prove I belonged.”

As the two stars got together for a StoryCorps conversation, they agreed being the only girl often motivated them and that their families provided incredible support. It was far different from hockey culture today, where thousands of girls participate all over the country.

Ruggiero, who is from Southern California, initially started playing hockey when a league offered her father a discount if, in addition to his son, he signed up his daughters to play. Granato, who is from outside Chicago, grew up in a hockey-playing family with three brothers who played the sport.

“There were definitely obstacles, but I was pretty oblivious to the fact that people really cared about this girl playing in the game,” said Granato, noting that she usually was the only girl in the entire league. “There were a lot of adults that completely disagreed with a female playing hockey. So they would tell their kids to take a run at me or certain parents would say their boy wasn’t going to play on the team [with me] and that the coach should cut her. I was pretty lucky to have a coach who stood by me and an organization that stood by me.

“When I got on the ice, I felt I belonged. I didn’t identify myself as a girl playing the game. I identified myself as a hockey player.”

A Native American from tiny Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Billy Mills surged down the stretch to win the 10,000-meter run at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.
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