Going for gold, again: Declan Farmer to compete in 2018 Paralympics
Declan Farmer fell in love with sled hockey from the first moment he got on the ice. The adaptive sport gave him what other sports could not — the opportunity to be competitive and one of the best in the world.
Farmer, a Princeton sophomore and economics major from Tampa, Florida, was born as a double amputee and has been using prosthetic legs since he was a year old. He is set to make his second Paralympic Games appearance with USA Hockey, with festivities kicking off March 9 in Pyeongchang.
As a child, Farmer played various sports but struggled to keep up with his teammates. That changed when a sled hockey clinic was held in Clearwater, Florida. Farmer, who was 9 years old at the time, attended to give the sport a try.
"I couldn't get enough of it," Farmer said. "It was the first adaptive sport I had ever played. It was the first time I could really be competitive in something."
Soon after the clinic, the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League started sponsoring a sled hockey team, through which Farmer was able to develop his skills. At age 12, he began playing in tournaments.
"I started attending youth camps over the summers and was exposed to national team-level coaches and players from all over the country," Farmer said. "It was a way to build relationships and see how I compared to other players."
This season is Farmer's sixth year on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. In 2014, he made his Paralympic debut in Sochi, winning gold for Team USA, tying for the team lead in goals and points, and being voted the International Paralympic Committee's Best Male Athlete. In the same year, ESPN honored him with an ESPY award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability.
"The first Paralympics was really a special moment for me," Farmer said. "All those years of hard work coming together, and you getting to hold your gold medal, and hear the national anthem and sing it along with your teammates — it's really a special moment."
While it is not easy, Farmer has found a balance between his athletic and academic careers by working with his professors and training at Princeton's Baker Rink.
"My professors at Princeton and advisers have really worked with me and allowed me to miss the time I need, and also everyone at the Princeton hockey department who has allowed me to skate here and train here on my own," Farmer said. "I really appreciate all the sacrifices and help people in the Princeton community have given me to achieve the dream of going to the Paralympics again."
USA Hockey begins play with a preliminary match against Japan (10 p.m. EST March 10; noon March 11 in Pyeongchang).
"This time we hope to repeat what we did at Sochi," Farmer said. "We hope to win a gold medal again. It's just a blast going out and playing for your country and playing the sport you love."