Declan Farmer, a star on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, had already been to the ESPY Awards three times and was an award-winner in the past. But his trip to this year’s event, held July 20 in Los Angeles, was special.
For the third time, Farmer was a nominee for the Best Athlete With A Disability, Men’s Sports, an award he previously won in 2014. This time, though, he was also nominated for the Best Olympian, Men’s Sports category, which for the first time is including Paralympic athletes.
“It’s really exciting, especially this year when they’ve included Paralympians in the best Olympic and Paralympic category,” said Farmer, who was also nominated for the Best Athlete With A Disability award in 2018 and 2019. “It’s another step forward for Paralympic sports. Our world has taken steps towards more inclusivity the last several years and this is another example. It’s an honor to be one of the three Paralympians in the category and the one who represented the sled hockey team specifically.”
Farmer was born a bilateral amputee and first tried sled hockey at age 9 at a clinic in Clearwater, Florida. Now 24 years old, Farmer is a three-time Paralympic gold medalist.
Paralympians Nick Mayhugh (track and field) and Oksana Masters (Nordic skiing, road cycling, biathlon) were also nominated for Best Olympian in a men’s and women’s sport, respectively, while Masters was also the first Paralympian to be nominated for one of the main Best Athlete categories.
Other nominees for Best Olympian on the men’s side included Nathan Chen (figure skating) and Caeleb Dressel (swimming). Sunisa Lee (gymnastics), Katie Ledecky (swimming) and Allyson Felix (track and field) rounded out the women’s nominees.
“The expansion of the Paralympic movement is the highlight of this one for me,” Farmer said. “I’m really excited for the Paralympics as a whole. It’s super cool and exciting for all of our supporters … our families, USA Hockey and the village behind each Paralympian.”
The U.S. downed rival Canada for its unprecedented fourth consecutive gold medal in March in Beijing.
Farmer led the tournament with 11 assists and 18 points in four games while serving as an alternate captain for the U.S. He also became the leader in career goals, assists and points for the U.S. at the Paralympic Games.
Farmer said the U.S. captured the most recent gold medal thanks to the effort of the players before the tournament began.
“We did a really good job making an effort and in the time we weren’t having training camp, we’d have players working out in other cities,” Farmer said. “Everyone bought in, we showed off our hard work and won that gold medal over a long stretch of time.”
Farmer, who lives in Colorado now, had a chance to see the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame induction for the 2002 U.S. Sled Hockey Team, winners of the first Paralympic sled hockey gold medal in Team USA history.
“I’m proud of just how many great sled hockey players there have been from across the country and the pioneers from the 2002 days,” Farmer said. “Those guys deserved it.”
Farmer was excited for the opportunity to place even more awareness on the Paralympic movement at the ESPY Awards.
“There are so many people with disabilities around the country and the world,” Farmer said. “To see that recognition for someone they identify with, in a way, I imagine would be really cool for some people.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.