I was born on a typical New England winter day in December of 1996. I was as healthy as I could be despite my diagnosis. The doctors had warned my parents already that I had spina bifida in utero and because of that, I would not be able to walk, stand, or move and that abortion would be their best option. My parents did not agree, as my father expressed very bluntly to them. They took me home until my first surgery in March 1997 to remove the lipomyelomeningocele, a collection of fatty cells on my spine. This was followed by complications including rotavirus and fentanyl withdrawal. I was eventually discharged 5 weeks after the surgery.
Following my discharge from the hospital, I was a healthy baby. I loved to crawl and play on the ground with my toys. I enjoyed moving a lot. By the age of 3, I was up and walking. I enjoyed running around and playing football and baseball. I felt like I was just like any other kid my age.
I was naturally gifted in sports. I started playing t-ball and then continued onto baseball and played up until 8th grade. After realizing that running would be an obstacle, I stopped playing baseball before high school. After hearing about it for years from a family friend with Cerebral Palsy and from my physical therapists at Shriner's Hospital, I finally gave in and tried sled hockey.
Being on the ice was one of the most freeing feelings I had ever felt. I was hooked. I fell in love with the sport. I started in the 2010-2011 season with the Springfield Sliders junior sled hockey team. Shortly after that, I was moved up to the Western Mass Knights which is the adult team for the Sliders. After a season and a half of playing in the NESHL (New England Sled Hockey League), a team in New Hampshire had noticed my improvement. Towards the end of the 2013 season, NEP Wildcats (Northeast Passage) had asked to join their team.
2013-2014 was my first season on the NEP Wildcats. The team was led by the captain of the US National Team Taylor Chace, which gave me a great opportunity to learn from one of the best in our sport. After trying out the previous 2 years, I was selected to the USA Development Team in the fall of 2013. I spent the next 5 years learning and training from some of the best sled hockey players and coaches in the world.
In 2015 immediately after graduating high school, I had to have a spinal cord untethering, followed by another one in august of 2016. These two surgeries decreased some mobility and strength in my hips and legs. As a result, I started using a wheelchair and forearm crutches. Despite all this, I was always able to use hockey as an outlet for the things I was adjusting to in my everyday life. I stayed on top of my training and kept improving my game. In 2018 I was selected to the USA National Team.
In early May of 2019, I was part of my first World Championship which was held in Ostrava, Czech Republic and we were able to secure a Gold medal. It was the highlight of my career and I was ready to celebrate. However, I became more involved in the celebrations in the off- season instead of contining my training.
The following season, I was cut from the team and moved down to the development team. This was a huge turning point in my career as I realized I had to FULLY commit to my sport and train like an elite-athlete to deserve my spot on Team USA. I spent that season training really hard and getting back into the best shape possible. It was a grueling process that pushed me to my limits and allowed me to find identity in the sport that I loved. About 4 months before tryouts in March 2020, the COVID pandemic hit, and everything was put on hold.
In October 2020, I found Crossfit. I loved the idea of functional fitness and the effect it has on my day-to-day life while keeping me in good shape for hockey.
In November 2020, I received my Adaptive and Inclusive Trainer certification from the Adaptive Training Academy to start working with other adaptive athletes to gain everyday functional fitness. In March 2021 I participated in the first-ever Adaptive Category at the CrossFit Open. CrossFit was a great opportunity to compete in a sport all while keeping me in the best shape of my life.
In April 2021, I was selected for the National Team and to represent the USA in the 20221 World Championships, held in Ostrava, Czech Republic where we were able to defend our title from 2019.
In January 2022, I was named to the 2022 Paralympic Team that would represent the USA in the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Games. Today, I am a proud Paralympic Gold Medalist.
I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me but I am excited to make a mark on the sport I love and inspire the next-generation sled hockey players to pursue their dreams as I did.