“Gigi used to play soccer and is unbelievable with his stick handling, and, as the captain of this team, I’m very proud of how he’s played.”
Italy’s Gianluigi Rosa has not missed a beat at this week’s IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Qualification Tournament, starting right where he left off at April’s World Championships A-Pool, anchoring his team’s defensive line.
Prior to the tournament, his teammates were still a bit skeptical on proclaiming Rosa a star, but after carrying Italy to three straight wins in Torino, they’re saying the 26-year-old can no longer go unnoticed by other teams.
“We have one of the best players in the world on defence – Gianluigi,” Italian captain Andrea Chiarotti said.
With 17 shots on goal, one score and three assists in Torino, Rosa ranks just behind forward Florian Planker on Italy’s stat leaderboard in the tournament, but those around him say one has to watch his speed and aggressiveness on the ice to get the full picture.
“It’s different in sledge hockey on defence because we cannot skate as much as able-bodied players,” Chiarotti said.
“But Gigi used to play soccer and is unbelievable with his stick handling, and, as the captain of this team, I’m very proud of how he’s played.”
In three games, Italy have outscored their opponents on their home ice 14-1, and much of that can be credited to their defence. After beating Great Britian, Japan and Germany, they are nearly a lock to make it to Sochi 2014 now.
So what does Rosa, who rides a pink sledge because of his last name, have to say about all of this?
Well, he is staying as humble as ever.
However, he could not stop smiling when exiting the ice after Italy’s third straight win.
“When you are in the locker room, you expect to play every game really well, though when you’re on the ice it’s a different story,” Rosa said.
“But this time it was possible for us to win all three games and get nine points toward Sochi. I couldn’t be happier.”