American sled hockey player Declan Farmer has been voted by the public as the International Paralympic Committee's Best Male Athlete of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. U.S. snowboarder Evan Strong was also nominated for the award.
At just 16 years old, Farmer, a quick forward, was crucial to Team USA gold-medal success in Sochi, playing over 87 minutes on the ice while scoring three goals and recording two assists in the tournament.
"Just being selected to play for Team USA and going to Sochi was a huge honour and privilege for me, especially at such a young age," Farmer said. "Being able to top all of that off with a gold medal was even sweeter.
"Winning that gold medal represents all of our hard work and sacrifices these past four years. It makes everything we have been through worth it."
Farmer helped Team USA defeat top-seeded arch rivals Canada in the semi-finals, scoring twice in a five-minute period early in the game.
"We knew we would have to be ready to go, playing the No. 1 seed and our biggest rival in the tournament's first elimination game," Farmer said.
"I believe our loss to Canada in the final of the 2013 world championships really helped us in Sochi. Having to watch your biggest rival beat you for gold is something none of us ever wanted to experience again."
At Sochi 2014, Team USA became the first sled hockey team to win back-to-back Paralympic titles, and Farmer was the squad's leading scorer during the complete 2013-14 season with 12 points and seven goals.
In lieu of the IPC Athlete of the Month award for March, the honor has been separated into three different categories - Best Male Athlete, Best Female Athlete and Best Team - based on results at Sochi 2014.
Russian Nordic skier Roman Petushkov, Canadian Nordic skier Brian McKeever and Austrian alpine skier Markus Salcher were also up for the Best Male Athlete accolade along with Farmer and Strong, the first-ever Paralympic champion in snowboard cross.
The nominations were compiled from submissions by National Paralympic Committees and International Federations.