Rico Roman: An Officer on the Ice and A Gentleman
By Josh Eisenberg
US Army veteran Rico Roman on the ice in South Korea for the Paralympic Winter Games. (Photo by Michael Clubine).
As far as USA Sled Hockey’s Rico Roman could remember growing up in Oregon, he wanted to be a soldier,
“I kind of followed in my uncle’s footsteps, by joining the military. Once I got in the military, I wanted to make a career out of it. I was enjoying it.” Says Roman, referring to his service days.
However, for this Army veteran, things took a sharp turn after an encounter with an IED on a tour of Iraq. It exploded, his left leg would need to be amputated. After going through rehab in San Antonio, Texas, Roman, now finds solace in sled hockey. Now the soldier has gone from U.S. military to General of the Ice.
“I did my rehab in 2007,” said Roman. “I did my rehab with a group called Operation Comfort. They help war wounded veterans in San Antonio. They helped me into their hand cycling program and then they invited me to play sled hockey.”
It wasn’t that simple to get Roman on the ice.
“I must have said no about 10 times,” said Roman. “I finally gave in and I was instantly hooked. You know the camaraderie, the brotherhood. We had an all veteran team in San Antonio and all different branches of military, all on one team and played for that team for almost a year. My coach at the time, Lonnie Hannah, who was a Paralympian, said that I should try out for the 2010 team. I went and tried out… didn’t make it, came back the next year and tried out again and I made it the following year.”
Roman had the honor of lighting the caldron at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. Though for him, it’s not about the personal achievements. He doesn’t like to be called a hero.
“The hardest thing, is that you have to play, and you know, everyone’s got a lot of bumps and bruises, and you have to play through those. Because it’s not just about yourself, it’s about the team, said Roman.
Even with all the sportsmanship and bonds between teammates, playing for his country comes first. Just don’t tell Roman that team USA is the favorite to win the gold medal in PyeongChang, because he won’t accept that.
“I don’t fall into that,” said Roman. “We just want to focus on one game at a time, one team at a time and make sure that we are in that gold medal match to compete, and then bring back a gold medal for Team USA.”
Roman is no stranger to receiving gold after he grabbed the top spot with the United States Sled Hockey team in Sochi. Roman is proud of his gold saying,
“My favorite thing to do personally, [the gold medal] taking it and showing it to all the people that I can because I don’t feel like it’s my medal. I feel like it’s America’s medal.”
Story published with permission of the Wheelchair Sports Federation. ©2018 All rights reserved.