I am Josh Pauls, a hopeful for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in sled hockey. I helped Team USA to the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, and two International Paralympic Committee Sledge World Championships.
Here are 14 things you need to know as I strive toward Sochi:
1. I live 900 miles away from home.
I'm originally from Green Brook, N.J., about 40 miles from Manhattan, and go to college at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. I knew I wanted to go away for college, but never thought it would be this far. Hockey was the biggest reason for going, as Lindenwood is hoping to get Paralympic sport scholarships soon.
2. I love to cook.
The biggest thing I miss being away at college is having a kitchen to cook in. When I'm home, I try to cook for my family as much as possible. I'm just lucky to have some teammates here in St. Louis that let me borrow their kitchens when I get the urge to cook.
3. I always root for the Cowboys.
Despite splitting time between New Jersey and Missouri, the Dallas Cowboys are my favorite football team. My dad is a big Cowboys fan and I followed in his footsteps and became a fan of them too. One day I want to go see a game at the ridiculously big stadium they have. I am normal when it comes to hockey, as I am a New Jersey Devils fan.
I am a perfect fit for this car.
4. I've been an amputee almost my entire life.
My legs were amputated at the knee at 10 months old because I was born missing my tibia (shin) bones. I've got a great sense of humor about it and make jokes constantly about being an amputee.
5. I'm in my fifth season with Team USA.
I first made the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in 2008 when I was 15 years old. I didn't attend tryouts that year but the general manager said he wanted me to come to a few camps with the team. It was a big jump playing alongside guys I had idolized but soon they became teammates, not just guys I looked up to.
6. Vancouver almost did not happen for me.
I was cut from the team at tryouts before the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. After being on the team for a year, I was cut at tryouts and sent down to the U.S. Developmental Sled Hockey Team. However, through hard work and a national team member retiring, I was called back up mid-season and made the final cut just before the Games. I was the youngest member of the team at 17.
7. I am superstitious.
I face a Mr. Potatohead figure towards the opponents’ locker room before every game. Many of my teammates call me "Spudsy" because of my resemblance to Mr. Potatohead. As a gag gift one year, I was given the toy and now it is part of my pre-game superstition. It may sound ridiculous, but it is much more sanitary than not changing my underwear.
8. I'll go anywhere.
The roster may list me as a forward, but I play pretty much everywhere. I started my national team career as a defenseman but moved to forward for the first time in my life just before Vancouver. Now, I am a regular forward that can fill in for a defenseman as needed. I also played goalie in one club tournament for fun.
9. I have a hockey addiction.
When I'm not playing hockey, I am watching hockey. When there is no hockey on, I'm playing it on my Xbox. I just cannot seem to get enough of it.10. Can you get my bag for me?
On long flights, I put my prosthetics in the overhead bin on the plane. Part of that is so that I can curl up in my seat and try to fall asleep. However, mainly it is so that I can ask someone to get my bag and watch their reaction as they open the bin and see a pair of legs there.
11. I also play for the DASA St. Louis Blues.
This is my club team that is sponsored by both the NHL's St. Louis Blues and the Disabled Athlete Sport Association, which is a Paralympic Sport Club. I play with the national team goalie Steve Cash and the rest of the team is comprised of local sled hockey players and can also include able-bodied players. We compete in the Midwest Sled Hockey League and travel all through the Midwest for tournaments and have a lot of fun doing so.
If there is no room on the table for my drink, I always have my foot.
By using a rotator on my prosthetic that spins it at the knee, I can flip my leg around in order to change my shoes more easily. The more practical use is to flip my leg up in the air and use it to hold whatever drink I have. Switching the drink out for something comfortable like a sweatshirt makes it a comfortable place to rest my head especially on planes! (Picture)
13. Gym, tan, laundry is not part of my daily routine.
Living in a different state, many people have misconceptions of what New Jerseyans or New Jerseyites are like. I can assure you, not everyone is like the stars of Jersey Shore. We're normal people just like you.
14. I am a huge fan of country music.
Country has a song for every occasion, good or bad. It is pretty rare that I don't listen to some country during some point in my day. Whether it is to brighten up a dreary day or to add some background noise when I'm doing homework, it is my favorite kind of music.