Malik Jones poses for a portrait on Oct. 28, 2021.
It wasn’t too long ago that U.S. sled hockey stars Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal were the young bucks on the ice.
At the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, Farmer, then 16, and Roybal, then the youngest member of Team USA at 15, made their debuts at the Games. Both made key contributions to help power the U.S. to gold against Russia.
Heading into next month’s Beijing Games, Farmer and Royal are the world’s best one-two forward punch, and they’ll look to extend Team USA’s gold-medal winning streak to four.
They’ll have the help of 19-year-old Malik Jones, the newest standout young forward on the U.S. national team. Jones cherishes both Farmer and Roybal as his role models as he prepares for his own Paralympic debut.
“I started to watch sled hockey a lot as a kid, and when I turned on the Paralympics for the first time, I saw Declan and Brody as the two people I looked up to because when they went to their first Paralympics they were also really young,” Jones said. “I really wanted to achieve that from a young age.”
Team USA will enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed, and as both the reigning Paralympic and world champions. The squad is seeking to capture a record-extending fourth consecutive and fifth overall gold medal.
Jones, who grew up in Aurora, Colorado, received an email last fall that he’d made the U.S. sled hockey team for the first time. Only a few months later, he cracked the roster as a forward for the Paralympic Winter Games.
In Beijing, he will be only the second Black athlete to have represented the U.S. in sled hockey at the Paralympics. Tim Jones, of no relation, was the first when he represented Team USA at the 2006 and 2010 Games.
“I’m expecting that I’ll have a lot of fun, that I’ll learn a lot from my teammates and (will) win some games,” Malik Jones said. “The Paralympics are the world’s second largest sporting event, so it feels good that I’m representing a community and all the people who look up to me. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what color you are, you can do anything you want to. You’ve just got to put your mind to it.”