Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Team USA Inspires Young Hockey Players

By Liberty Zabala and Christina London
|  Sunday, Feb 16, 2014  |  Updated 10:46 PM PDT
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On the heels of Team USA's dramatic hockey win over Russia, the California State Games are in full swing at ice rinks all over San Diego. NBC 7's Liberty Zabala tells us how the Olympics are inspiring young athletes for their chance at bringing home gold.

On the heels of Team USA's dramatic hockey win over Russia, the California State Games are in full swing at ice rinks all over San Diego. NBC 7's Liberty Zabala tells us how the Olympics are inspiring young athletes for their chance at bringing home gold.

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At this weekend’s California State Games Hockey Tournament in San Diego, Team USA’s dramatic 3-2 win over Russia in Men’s Hockey was on everyone’s mind.

"I feel like, wow, I hope that's me one day. I can just go out there and win a gold medal with my team,” said Isabelle DeLiberti, a young hockey player competing in the tournament.

The California State Games are run by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Many of its summer athletes went on to become Olympians, but there is yet to be a winter one.

However, with the addition of six more hockey teams this year, they just might find one.

"Hopefully one of these kids that are on the ice here today will one day be on that screen," said Lisa Hauck with the California State Games.

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The teams in the tournament are co-ed. Being a girl in a male-dominated sport can have downsides.

"The coaches say like, ‘go weak side,’ and I'm like, ‘really? You think I'm weak?’" Anna Liu said.

But these girls have learned to use that to their advantage.

“They used to call me the secret weapon,” Anna said.

"When I play in the game, I hear coaches say like, ‘she's a girl, guys, don't worry.’ And then they stay and I show them and they say, ‘attack the girl! She's good!’ So it's just like, ‘told you!’" Isabelle said.

“When I’m on the ice, I think I can definitely take them,” she added.

These girls are out to prove the naysayers wrong. Both Anna and Isabelle hope to play for Team USA in the Olympics one day.

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The Olympics seem to be inspiring more than just current hockey players. Both the San Diego Ice Arena and the Salvation Army's Kroc Center Ice Arena tell NBC 7 that they’ve seen at least a 25 percent increase in sign-ups for hockey and figure skating lessons.

The California State Games will award gold, silver and bronze medals for hockey on Monday.

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