After helping lead Duke to the College Cup final last December, midfielder Rebecca Quinn took the spring semester off from school to train for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and was named to Canada's Olympic roster June 20. The Chronicle's Hank Tucker spoke with Quinn Monday about her preparation and expectations for the competition in August.

The Chronicle: You took spring 2015 off from school but didn’t make Canada’s roster for the World Cup. How disappointing was that for you a year ago?

Rebecca Quinn: It was really disappointing for me. To go away from school and take some time off, making the World Cup roster was definitely my number one commitment at the time for that spring. It was disappointing, but I think it helped me understand where my gaps were in my game and come back for this Olympic tournament a lot stronger as a player and also help my Duke team as well.

TC: Was that a motivating factor for you when you took this spring off, too, to make sure that didn’t happen again?

RQ: Yeah, I think I had a lot more confidence in myself as a player coming into this spring semester. It was interesting that we actually have an 18-player roster rather than a 22 or 23-player roster for the World Cup, but I think I just had some confidence in myself as a player, especially coming off a great Duke season making it to the national championship, and it was a good motivating factor for me.

TC: How did you find out you were on the Olympic team? What did that moment feel like for you?

RQ: Pretty surreal experience. Ever since I was a child, ever since I can remember in grade one, I had written what I wanted to do when I was older was be an Olympian. Having the ability to check off the box of a childhood dream was pretty amazing and also seeing the pride that my parents had because there’s so much that goes into it. My parents have dedicated a lot of their lives to it as well, and it was great to see that it paid off for them as well.

TC: What are you most looking forward to about the Olympic experience in Rio?

RQ: I think I’m most looking forward to getting back to 2012 and trying to repeat what we did. Our Canadian team brought home a bronze medal in 2012, so we’re not only trying to repeat that bronze medal, but even going for a better result—a gold medal, essentially—just playing some good quality soccer and being able to do that.

TC: Have you ever been to Brazil or anywhere in South America?

RQ: I was in Brazil actually just before Christmas. We had a little four-team tournament against other national teams. I actually left the next day after we lost the national championship and flew to Brazil.

TC: What is the coolest place in the world soccer has taken you?

RQ: The U-17 National World Cup was in Azerbaijan, which I think is one place that I probably wouldn’t go to otherwise, but soccer brings me to incredible places all the time. My team has just been in the Netherlands and also in Portugal, which was a really interesting experience, so a bunch of different places, but I think Azerbaijan definitely takes the cake of a place that I wouldn’t experience otherwise.

TC: You had to miss the team’s trip to China in June while you were training, what did you hear from teammates about that trip and how disappointed were you to miss it?

RQ: It looked like an incredible experience for them, and I definitely was a bit envious of it. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t help them in those international games, but it looked like such a good experience for them and I’ve loved hearing all the stories about it. I’m sure there will be more when I come in for preseason. I’m really happy that they got to experience that.

TC: Are there any specific things you’ve worked on improving in the spring and summer since the season ended last fall?

RQ: I’ve been playing a decent amount of holding mid, which is different from my college season. I was only playing center back, so I’ve been working on that position a lot just to provide more versatility to our Canadian team, and I think it’ll provide a lot of versatility as well coming into the next Duke season.

TC: What is it like transitioning back to school in the fall after really eight months off? You have already done it once, so is there anything you learned that might make it easier next year?

RQ: It was a little bit of a difficult transition taking the spring off. Our team is so closely knit, and that culture is always building at Duke. Especially in the offseason, people get some time to be in a more relaxed environment and build those partnerships and connections on our team, so I think it was a bit difficult coming back. 

Although I tried staying connected, it was hard at times when you’re traveling all over the place and you’re so far away from each other, so I think that was a big learning opportunity for me, was just giving that extra effort to stay as connected as possible and understanding what’s going on with them to make that gap a little bit easier when I get to see them again.