“At our first game, I wore I t-shirt that I’d knitted,” she said after an opening 5-2 loss against the United States. “I just finished it on the day of the game, so I’m happy that we had the late game and I had time to get it finished.”
Tuominen’s needlecraft has another Chinese connection; it’s a hobby she returned to while playing for the KRS Vanke Rays, the Chinese club playing in Russia’s Women’s Hockey League. Having learned to knit at school – a regular part of the curriculum in Finland – she picked up the needles during the first summer of lockdown. Then, on joining up with the Dragons in their temporary base in Russia, she brought the hobby with her. “Come the fall, I figured it would be a great pastime [in Russia] as well. I was enjoying it more and more and I finished my first big project.
“That was a sweater for my five-year-old god-daughter. I don’t know who liked it more, her or me!”
“At one point I ran out of wool and I don’t know what I’d have done if it wasn’t for Alena,” Minttu recalled. “She found an online store where I could order up exactly the same Finnish brand that I bought back home, so I could keep going.”
Tuominen’s career has also kept going. Now 31, she’s moved from a rookie forward on the Finnish roster in Vancouver to an experienced defender. That’s seen her role change on and off the ice. “In Vancouver I didn’t play too much,” she recalled. “Now I’m on the ice a lot more and I’m trying to help the younger players feel more comfortable.
“I think Finnish hockey has changed quite a lot since I started. The current generation of players is a lot more professional and more athletic and that shows on the ice.”
Tuominen’s Olympic pedigree is undoubted: two medals so far, 23 games and counting and 3 (2+1) points in Beijing taking her career tally to seven.
And knitting, too, has something of an Olympic pedigree. Last summer, at the Tokyo Games, British diving gold medallist Tom Daley caused something of a stir when he was snapped clicking the needles in the stands and has since gone on to establish his own clothing brand. Could 2022 bring another medal-winning knitter at the Olympics?