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Team USA’s Sled Hockey Squad Has Its Own ‘Kap’

Posted Mar 6, 2014

Rico Roman, a member of America's sled hockey team, is in Sochi, Russia and ready to represent the 49ers at the Paralympics.


The Winter Olympics are over, but the Winter Paralympics are just beginning.

And there’s another 49ers fan competing.

Rico Roman, a forward on Team USA’s sled hockey team, is in Sochi, Russia and ready to represent.

“This is my first Paralympics. I've been chasing this dream for four years,” Roman wrote in an email to 49ers.com. “I tried out for Vancouver 2010 Paralympics but didn't make the team. I've been on the U.S. National Team ever since and now have a chance to help us bring back gold.”

READ: Olympic Skiers Share Bay Area Ties

No matter how the American team fares abroad, Roman has already won. He’s a Purple Heart recipient after serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Roman, who lives in Texas with his wife and two children, had his left leg amputated above the knee after an improvised explosive device injured him in 2007.

49ers.com chatted with Roman to discuss his fandom, his sport and how he’s reached the peak. Team USA kicks off its slate against Italy on Saturday; its match with Russia can be watched on Tuesday at 12 p.m. PT on NBC Sports.

Where are you right now?
I'm in Paralympic Coastal Village, in my room about 45 minutes from Sochi by train and I think about 45 minutes from Mountain Village.

What are we interrupting with this interview?
The only thing is sleep, but no biggie – sleep is overrated, as we would joke in the Army. 

What is going through your body and mind with the Paralympics so close?
I feel physically ready for the games. We've really worked hard all year as a team off and on the ice. Mentally, I feel great. Excited, not nervous one bit. 

Tell us about how you became a 49ers fan, and where you grew up…
I grew up in North Portland, Ore. in Rose City. It was a little rougher neighborhood then. Now it's hipster-ville. I love going back there when I can to visit my mom and brothers. My father was born in Puerto Rico but raised in San Francisco and would always cheer for the 49ers on Sunday, so I became a fan by birth. My middle brother likes the Raiders, and my youngest brother likes the Seattle Seahawks. 

How do you show your fandom?
I watch games and check the Internet for scores, wear my Niners hat and jersey. I hate to say this: I've never been to The ‘Stick. I had a party at my house with friends and family for the NFC title game. I thought we would get the win at the end. I hate to lose, and after that game I felt like I had lost, too.

Back to your Games – tell us about sled hockey and why fellow 49ers fans should watch you compete.
Sled hockey is the same as hockey, only in sleds. It's full contact just like regular hockey and football. It's a fast-paced game, and we propel ourselves with two hockey sticks with picks on the bottom of the sticks. We balance on two hockey blades under our buckets. I know Niners fans like to see good hits, and you'll defiantly see big hits on the ice from Team USA.

Do you see any similarities at all between your sport and football, or you and 49ers players?
Sled hockey is pretty close to football in the fact that we do give hits and take hits from each other. We are fully padded with shoulder pads like football, elbow pads, helmet with facemask, gloves and some guys wear shin guards. I should also say my buddy on the team joked, calling me the Colin Kaepernick of our team because of two commercials I've done.

Could you tell us how you became an Olympian and how long have you been training for this?
It's been tough balancing training and family life, but I train hard in San Antonio on the ice, weight train in my buddy's garage, swim at the Brooke Army Medical Center pool and play wheelchair basketball with the San Antonio Spurs wheelchair team.

What are your goals for Sochi?
Whatever my team needs me to do to win – be there for my teammates every shift and to give them 110 percent. I remember that there are a lot of other sled hockey players in the U.S. that would love to be in my shoes and I can make them proud by bringing home gold.

What event other than yours should we watch?
I would check out my friend Alana Nichols in alpine skiing. She's the first woman to win gold in summer and winter sports.