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Rico Roman      

2018 and 2014 Paralympic Gold Medalist; Retired Staff Sergeant, United States Army

A native of North Portland, Oregon, Rico Roman grew up with no interest, and little knowledge of ice hockey. Basketball, football and wrestling, those where his sports of choice. But no matter what the sport, life can throw curveballs as Roman knows all too well.

In 2001, upon graduating from Alpha High School in Gresham, Roman joined the U.S. Army and left the plush greenery and trademark rains of the Pacific Northwest for the desert and scorching heat of Iraq. A staff sergeant in the 2 nd of the 14 th Infantry, 10 th Mountain Division, Roman served three tours in Iraq (and one is Kosovo). On February 22, 2007, with less than a month to go on his last tour, Roman had finished the day working a security checkpoint at Sadar al Yusuf. Returning to base, his vehicle was struck be a roadside bomb, and Roman’s life changed forever.

Both of his legs were injured in the explosion, his left severely. The year following the accident was nearly unbearable. Despite best medical efforts, the mobility in his left leg decreased, while the pain increased. A future of limited mobility, endless medication and constant pain was enough motivation for Roman and his family to eventually choose to give up his leg. One year after returning from Iraq his left leg was amputated above the knee.

“Of course it was a hard decision,” says Roman, “but I focused on the positives, on the things I’d be able to do afterward. I tried to think about what I was going to get back to rather than what I was losing.”

Soon Roman mastered walking on a prosthetic leg, and eventually he took to hand cycling. He got back to basketball and football , playing in wheelchair leagues, but despite being asked by friends many times to try sled hockey, it’s just wasn’t his thing.

Finally, he gave in. He showed up at the ice rink, put on pads and sat in the sled's bucket. He quickly learned to balance h is weight on the two blades underneath and discovered that he liked speeding around the rink. He tested the sticks another day, using t he spikes on the ends to grip the ice and the blade to slap the puck, and realized he enjoyed the fast pace of the competition. He went back another day, then another.

"It was like football in a way," he said. "I was skating around, moving fast, hitting these guys and they were hitting me, an d t he best part of it was it’s all an incredible workout. The intensity of the game was unlike anything I had felt since the accident."

Roman soon took to league play, playing with the San Antonio Sled Rampage a team made entirely of veterans. He loved it, and despite having only been on the ice for less than a year, he narrowly missed making the 2010 U.S. Parlympic Team. By then he wa s hooked on hockey and he committed himself to earning a spot on the 2014 Team. Not only did he do so, becoming the first war wounded vet to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team, but he became a key member of Team USA and went on to win the gold medal. In the leadup to the 2018 Paralympics, Rico became a seasoned leader on the ice and in the locker room, winning his s eco nd gold medal. He remains a key member of Team USA and hopes to add a third gold medal to his collection in 2022.

“I joined the Army to serve our country”, said Roman. “It was a privilege and an honor to wear the uniform. The accident to ok my ability to serve away and that was tough to deal with. Being part of Team USA on the ice, pulling on the red, white and blue…it’s a similar kind of proud feeling. That too is an honor and a privilege.

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