Q&A with Team USA Paralympic sled hockey forward Rico Roman


What were the circumstances that led to you becoming a Paralympian?

I served nine years in the U.S. Army, and was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq, which damaged both of my legs leading to the amputation of my left leg above the knee.

Loosing my leg, and fighting for my country, taught me the importance, and fragility of life. Things are never as bad as they seem. 

Even after being blown up and having two bad legs, a fractured pelvis and a long road of recovery ahead of me, I knew that I was actually one of the lucky ones. Loosing my leg taught me to never give up and to always believe in hope. And that with hope, anything is possible.

When did you first get the idea to try sled hockey?

The first time that I saw sled hockey was the first time I played it! I didn’t grow up in a hockey state, and didn’t have a clue what sled hockey was. The first time I tried out for the national team in 2010 I didn’t make it. That was all it took for me to dedicate myself to sled hockey.

[After getting cut in 2010] I worked really hard to get better. One of the national team players noticed, and said he’d heard about me and told me to keep up the good work. That really inspired me and made me think that one day, I’d be the national player telling an up-and-coming player to keep up the good work!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t be in a hurry to be horses—t. 

Basically, this means that you don’t need to be a rush. If you’re rushing you’re going to make a bad play, or a bad shot. Don’t let the pressure of the situation make you bad! This applies to life, just as much as hockey.

How do you like to stay in shape, besides hockey?

Wheelchair basketball was always my go-to cardio workout, off ice. The reason I love it so much is that you push hard for two hours, end up drenched in sweat and happy as heck because you’re having so much fun it doesn’t feel like a workout.

Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?

As an amputee, it’s really important to keep myself active. So, I chop wood. I park the car in the furthest spot from the store and always try to just go that little bit further, whether that is doing a hike when it’s snowy, or going to the top of Pike’s Peak to get in a little exercise at altitude. Walking at 14,000 ft is no joke!

Have you ever been seriously injured playing sled hockey?

I’ve never suffered a serious injury as part of my sport. However, we’re hockey players. You get banged up and bruised. If you’re not hurting, you’re not working hard enough.

Who are your biggest rivals? Is it a friendly rivalry?

Canada and Russia, although I’d never take any team we compete against lightly. All it takes are a few lucky goals to turn the table on any match. With Canada, let’s just call it a friendly contention!

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