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Lakewood Ranch sled hockey player earns eighth berth on Team USA

Lakewood Ranch's Monica Quimby was paralyzed at 19, but her athletic career has been pure gold.

Lakewood Ranch's Monica Quimby was named to the women's sled hockey Team USA for the eighth time in August. Courtesy photo.
Lakewood Ranch's Monica Quimby was named to the women's sled hockey Team USA for the eighth time in August. Courtesy photo.
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Lakewood Ranch's Monica Quimby refused to let her dream die.

It might have changed slightly, but it lives.

Quimby, now 34, was a sophomore skier on the University of New Hampshire club team in 2006 when an attempted back flip went wrong. She landed on her right side, breaking the L1 vertebrae in her back. She was paralyzed.

Though it took a full semester to return to school, Quimby said quitting athletics was never an option. She said there's something inside her that will not let her give up. She needs the competition to survive. 

Since she couldn't ski, she evaluated her options. She first tried paracanoeing, which she liked. She even competed in a few world events, taking a silver medal at the 2014 Lake Placid International Regatta. It was fun, Quimby said, but it was also solo.

Quimby didn't know it at the time, she said, but she wanted something more communal. She decided to explore sled hockey and soon figured out that's where she was supposed to be. 

"Being on a team meant I was part of something again," Quimby said. "I was not excluded or different. I soon realized that I could be not just an athlete again, but an elite athlete. That was beyond my own expectations of what I could achieve."

The transition to the ice was not an easy one. Sled hockey requires tons of upper body strength and the ability to use both arms equally well, whether to shoot and pass or to move the sled. Quimby said skiing was "all legs," and that's where she drew her power. She had to reconfigure her body mechanics to fit the new sport. It was a challenge she embraced. 

All the rules in ice hockey apply to sled hockey, and that includes checking. That's something Quimby relishes, she said. A defender, she likes to play physical. To her, crushing an opponent is just as satisfying as scoring a goal. Her protective nature has earned her the nickname "Mama Bear" on her Tampa Bay Lightning team — which is affiliated with the NHL team — as well as co-captain status. Quimby is currently the only woman on the Lightning, she said, though others have played here and there throughout Quimby's tenure.

Her proudest sled hockey moment came in 2016 during her first international competition. Team USA headed to Norway to play in the Women’s World Ice Sled Hockey Festival. 

"I watched them raise the American flag," Quimby said. "I sang the National Anthem in a different country. I remember feeling so proud to be part of Team USA and to be an American, but also to be representing our country with a group of incredibly talented women."

Winning, Quimby said, was sweet — Team USA took the gold medal — but that initial moment of pride was sweeter. 

Quimby's career is still going strong. She was named to Team USA for the eighth time in August. Quimby said she is grateful for the experiences she's had. Quimby's story is the epitome of strength.

Let her inspire you to achieve your own dreams, whatever they might be. 




Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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