Lera Doederlein competes during the women's middle-distance sitting at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 8, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Lera Doederlein is anything but your typical teenager.
At age 19, Doederlein has already participated in the Paralympic Games and is competing at the highest levels of Nordic skiing and sled hockey. And she’s just getting started.
“It’s definitely been an exceptional learning curve for me to try to juggle … these sports,” Doederlein, of Escondido, California, said. “When I first started playing hockey, I never expected that it would turn into anything more than that. To now be … a dual-sport athlete, it’s come with a lot of lessons.
“It definitely takes a lot of time management and really just kind of planning ahead of it. With the coaching staff that I have, and the teammates that I have, it’s not as hard as one might think.”
Doederlein was born in Saratov, Russia, in 2003 with Arthrogryposis of the lower extremities. She came to the U.S. when she was adopted by David and Hiromi “Fami” Doederlein. At age 14, she had both legs amputated to provide better mobility. That’s when she was introduced to sled hockey.
In August of this year, she skated with the U.S. national team in the inaugural Women’s World Challenge, which took place in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Americans defeated Canada 5-1 in the final to win the gold medal.
In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the Challenge also included Great Britain and Team World, a club comprised of players from around the globe.
“It was a pretty momentous experience, to say the least, for myself and my teammates and even brand-new players from across the world,” Doederlein said. “It was so incredible to see players of all ages and levels just get together and finally have an international tournament where we’re showing the world that women’s sled hockey is meant to be here.
“For the U.S. team to come up on top and win gold was just the cherry on top of that experience, to see that all our hard work had paid off.”
Doederlein also scored a goal in the tournament final.
“It was a pretty fun little wrap-around goal on the Canadian goalie,” she recalled. “Couldn’t have asked for more.”
It was the continuation of a banner athletic year for Doederlein, who also qualified for and competed in Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 in cross-country and biathlon.
“Going to my first Paralympics … at age 19 was definitely not exactly what I really expected for myself, especially being so fresh to skiing,” said Doederlein, who recorded two top-10 finishes in Beijing, “and just kind of acclimate to that new environment of being around so many amazing athletes. It was truly an experience that I won’t forget.”