The USA Paralympic sled hockey team is an incredibly diverse and unique set of athletes that have come together to be a top contender in the Paralympic games. The team claims two of the youngest hockey players, three purple-heart veterans and two friends who sustained leg injuries in a car accident. Though they lost to Russia, 2 -1 in Tuesday’s play-offs, they have demonstrated that they are a skilled and hard driving team.
Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal are the youngest Paralympic sled hockey players at ages 16 and 15 respectively. Both currently attend high school and were born bilateral amputees. Roybal started playing hockey at age 7, and rapidly progressed to join an adult league by age 12. Farmer was on skates using his prosthetics at age 8, and shortly thereafter found a sled hockey team to play on. He went on to three U.S. development hockey camps, leading him to qualify for TeamUSA.
Tyler Carron and Nikko Landeros where both in juniors in high school when change a car tire on the side of the road. They were struck while performing the repair, suffering massive injury to their legs. This resulted in bilateral amputations for both men. After rehabilitation, they got interested in sled hockey and joined the Colorado Avalanche Sled Hockey team in 2008, where they continue to play today.
The the entire USA Paralympic winter team has a number of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Three purple-heart veterans are on Team USA Sled Hockey. Paul Schaus had both legs amputated in 2009 after being injured by an I.E.D. while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps. While undergoing rehabilitation, Schaus observed the Vancouver Winter Paralympics and was motivated to get on the team.
Rico Roman was an Army staff sergeant when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb during his final tour of Iraq in February 2007. His left leg injury required amputation. Stateside, Roman discovered sled hockey and joined the San Antonio Rampage sled hockey club team in 2009.
Joshua Sweeney was a US Marine sergeant on patrol who stepped on an I.E.D while serving in Afghanistan, damaging his legs. Previously being a hockey player, Sweeny discovered sled hockey in 2010 and was hooked on the sport. He later joined Rico Roman to play on the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey team.
There are other inspiring stories from the team of 17 and how each athlete was challenged to adapt and overcome their disability. But their drive has propelled them further as they each were able to qualify and compete at an Olympian level.
Team USA will next play in the semi-finals against Canada on March 13. Canada is the only team with no losses in the playoffs at 3 – 0. The US and Russia are second best at 2 – 1. The semi-finals will determine the medal competitions on March 15.