“Norway, for once, is an outsider. We are of course underdogs to medal, but at a World Championships or Paralympics anything can happen.”
When Loyd Remi Solberg was 16, he was driving unlicensed and struck a tree, leaving him in a coma and resulting in the loss of his left leg.
His friend, a passenger in the car, died in the crash.
Solberg was given a two-year suspended sentence, but believes the punishment should have been harsher.
“My punishment is that I have to wake up every day and think that I killed my friend,” Solberg said. “I miss him terribly, and bear the sorrow with me. But I think such acts should be punished harder (by the law). Otherwise it has little effect.”
While Solberg still thinks about that crash every now and then, it is his past. It does not define who he is today – a two-time Paralympic medallist for Norway in ice sledge hockey aiming for his third podium finish next month in Sochi.
His first Paralympics were the Torino 2006 Games, where he won silver just a year after veteran defenceman Rolf Pedersen brought him into the sport.
In 2010, he helped Norway pull a shocker, defeating host nation and Paralympic tournament favourites Canada in the bronze-medal game in front of a sold-out raucous Vancouver crowd.
“They are still angry with us,” Solberg said. “They wanted to medal in the Paralympic Games in their home country. They were crying a lot on the ice after the game. They looked like they wanted to kill us.”
Since then, a lot has changed in the sport of sledge hockey. Most notably, there has been emergence of new talent in Russia and South Korea, making the fight for the podium include more than just Canada, USA, Norway and Sweden, as it has been for several years.
In addition, Solberg just returned to international play this January for the first time in more than a year after an arm operation. He missed out on traveling with Norway to the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool and the International “4 Nations” Tournament, which served as the Sochi 2014 Test Event.
Norway head into the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games as the No. 5 seed with forward Solberg at full health. In the preliminary round, they will face No. 1 Canada, No. 4 Czech Republic and No. 8 Sweden in what Solberg calls the “easier” of the two groups.
When looking at history – Norway have medalled at all five Paralympic Winter Games that included ice sledge hockey – one would think Norway should make the podium.
But with time and success, comes age. And in Sochi, Norway will be facing teams half the age as them.
“Norway, for once, is an outsider,” Solberg said. “We are of course underdogs to medal, but at a World Championships or Paralympics anything can happen.”