The 2022 U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team plays a game of "sled hockey curling" during their practice at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 8, 2022 in Beijing.
BEIJING – With four consecutive days off, the players on the undefeated U.S. sled hockey team are finding unique and clever ways to keep themselves occupied and mentally fresh at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Sometimes, that has meant embracing another sport. In this case, wheelchair curling.
After winning its preliminary round games against Canada and South Korea over the weekend, and having its match against the Russian Paralympic Committee cancelled, Team USA automatically advanced to Friday’s semifinal round.
During their first off day on Monday, the American skaters took it upon themselves to hop on a bus to the National Aquatics Centre to cheer on the U.S. wheelchair curling team in its match against Canada. Sporting a sleeveless Ralph Lauren and Nike winter ensemble, the likes of Jack Wallace, Declan Farmer, Jen Lee and others could be seen shouting on their fellow countrymen and women from the top deck of spectator stands.
“We had an off day and took it upon ourselves to really try to embrace the fun of the Paralympics and get behind the Paralympic spirit,” said the 23-year-old Wallace, who had a hat trick in the first period against South Korea. “Even though Josh Pauls has been to four Paralympic Games, he’s never been to another event in person, so it was really important for us to get him to one.”
The squad then took the final 15 minutes of its practice on Tuesday to play a friendly game of what it calls “sled hockey curling.”
With half the athletes in blue jerseys and half in white, they acted as human curling stones, pushing themselves with their sticks to the center circle of the ice.
“We like to keep it fun and light-hearted in the times we have a big break,” Wallace said. “We were trying to think of ways to incorporate different games on the ice. For us, it’s a fun little team-building thing on the ice, and it’s also a great way to enhance our sled control, a skill a lot of us have worked really hard at.
“Obviously we have some fun, but in between the fun at practice we compete super hard. The competitive level is really almost as hard in practice as it is in a game, and we put in the same energy and work.”