Paralympian Declan Farmer is zeroing in on his second gold

Published February 1, 2018

COLLAGE BY MAXWELL N. BURNSTEIN.

In the lead up to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, we will be introducing 10 young athletes who will be stealing America’s hearts and standing on the podium.

Declan Farmer credits para-sled hockey as the “best thing that’s ever happened to me!” Tearing up the ice since he discovered the sport at the age of eight, Farmer is looking for his second gold as a returning player on USA’s 17-player roster for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

The same rules as stand-up ice hockey have made para-sled hockey “an easy sport for audiences to pick up on since NBC started broadcasting [the sport] in Sochi,” said Farmer, who will take on a new role as an Alternate Captain on Team USA. Viewers can see Farmer use two smaller hockey sticks with hooks to move and shoot on his metal sled with skates underneath.

Coming off his most competitive season with a silver from World Champions 2017, Farmer is seeking a challenge at his second Olympic games. Working with Captain Josh Pauls and Co-Alternate Nikko Landers, Farmer and his team are dead set on defying the odds to become back-to-back victors for Team USA at the Paralympics.

 

Para-sled hockey can be…

Just like stand-up hockey you see everyday, with a few minor differences. We are sitting down on a sled, as opposed to standing up on two skates. The blades are sitting underneath and connect to us through a metal frame. We have two sticks instead of one, they’re both smaller and have picks, used to propel ourselves across the ice. The stick is used for shooting and skating, which is the biggest difference between sled and stand-up hockey.

The team for these games…

Doesn’t change very much from year to year, normally there is only a turnover of about two to three players. This is my sixth consecutive year, so I’ve known most of the guys for a number of years.

As an Alternate Captain my role is…

To lead by example. Everyone has a different role to play, and as one of the alternates it’s about trying to be a competitor or saying the right thing in the locker room. It doesn’t mean I’m a better leader then my teammates, it’s just part of how it goes.

Attending Princeton as a sophomore…

I am still attending all my games, and took a lot more classes last year so I can lighten my load this spring. I’ve been on the national team for six years now, went through all of high school and first year of college managing that balance—so I look to the same this semester. It will be a good challenge.

The difference going into these games…

Is my age. I was 16 going to [Sochi] and as my first Paralympics, I didn’t really know what to expect. A lot of that process of being in Sochi was taking in that experience and knowing exactly what the venue, village, or ceremonies would be like.  This time it will be a bit different, I just want to focus more of my attention on the games.

From the platform I earned at Sochi…

Getting national TV coverage from NBC for the first time ever in a Paralympics games was huge for everyone on the team, and the sport of sled hockey. Millions of people were watching us win a gold medal so more people are going to know about the sport; more people will play it, more money will be invested into the sport. Those were all really great things that we’ve seen lead to growth since Sochi.

Sled hockey came into my life…

When I was eight years old, looking for a disabled sport to try and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Then I started playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, they started sponsoring a club team in sled hockey, and playing with them throughout middle and high-school days.

I advocate that all kids should play sports…

Just because a kid is born without legs like myself, or has some other impairment, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get the same opportunity to play sports. The hard thing when I was a kid was finding a sport I could play. I couldn’t play a disabled sport until I found Sled Hockey, I was competing against able-bodied kids in soccer which is really tough. Just getting the word out is important so all people can find something they’d like to compete in.

My Olympic goal is…

As competitors and athletes our goal is to win a medal. We know this is not the easiest thing to do, especially as defending champions there is a target on our backs. We look forward to that challenge, training hard and putting ourselves in the best position to succeed. We look forward to playing all of our competitors in PyeongChang, it will be a fun games!

 

LEARN MORE AT TEAMUSA.ORG. THE WINTER OLYMPICS BEGIN LIVE ON FEBRUARY 8. THE PARALYMPICS START ON MARCH 9.