PYEONGCHANG, South Korea—- As far as USA Sled Hockey’s Rico Roman could remember growing in in Oregon, he wanted to be a soldier,

“I kind of followed in my uncle’s footsteps, by joining the military. Once I got in the military, I wanted to make a career out of it. I was enjoying it.” Says Roman, referring to his service days.

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Rico Roman posing for our camera March 14, 2018 during a press opportunity. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine

However, for this veteran, things took a sharp turn after an encounter with an IED on a tour of Iraq. It exploded, his left leg would need to be amputated. After going through rehab in San Antonio, Texas, Roman, now finds solace in sled hockey. Now the soldier has gone from (U.S. Military) to General of the Ice.

“I did my rehab in ‘07…” said Roman continuing, “I did my rehab with a group called Operation Comfort. They help war wounded veterans in San Antonio. They helped me into their hand cycling program and then they invited me to play Sled Hockey.”

At first, it was not that simple at first to get Rico Roman on the ice,  “I must have said no about 10 times. I finally gave in and I was instantly hooked. You know the camaraderie, the brotherhood. We had an all veteran team in San Antonio and all different branches of military, all on one team and played for that team for almost a year. And my coach at the time Lonnie Hannah, who was a Paralympian, said that I should try out for the 2010 team. I went and tried out… didn’t make it, came back the next year and tried out again and I made it the following year.”

Rico had the honor of lighting the caldron at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Though for him, it’s not about the personal achievements. He doesn’t like to be called a hero.

“The hardest thing, is that you have to play and you know, everyone’s got a lot of bumps and bruises, and you have to play through those. Because it’s not just about yourself, it’s about the team.”

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#23 Rico Roman jams a South Korean opponent in their 8-0 win on March 13, 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Chin

Even with all the sportsmanship and bonds between teammates, playing for his country comes first. Just don’t tell Rico that team USA is the favorite to win the gold medal in PyeongChang, because he won’t accept that.

“I don’t fall into that. We just want to focus on one game at a time, one team at a time and make sure that we are in that gold medal match to compete, and then bring back a gold medal for Team USA.”

Rico is no stranger to receiving gold after he grabbed the top spot with the United States Sled Hockey team in Sochi. Rico is proud of his gold saying,

“My favorite thing to do personally, [the gold medal] taking it and showing it to all the people that I can because I don’t feel like it’s my medal. I feel like it’s America’s medal.”

 

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