“To compete at the Paralympic Games has been my dream since I started to play Para ice hockey. It would be massive to be able to be there. But I want to deserve the place, not be awarded it."
Norwegian Para ice hockey player Lena Schroder has a big dream and knows how she wants to achieve it.
“I really want to go [to the Paralympics] this time. But I want to be there as a player, not as a woman. It would be a personal victory,” said Schroder in an interview to Norwegian TV NRK.
Norway will announce in January its roster for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. If Schroder is on the list she will be first female Para ice hockey player to take part in the Winter Paralympics since fellow countrywoman Brit Mjaasund Oejen at Lillehammer 1994.
Schroder, who was born with spina bifida, received her first call up to the national team in 2014 for a series of friendlies. But she ended up not being taken to the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships A-Pool in Gangneung, South Korea, last April. Norway finished fourth and secured a place at the Paralympics.
As a way to promote women’s participation at the Paralympic Winter Games, teams will be allowed to register one more player (16 instead of 15, plus two goalkeepers) in case the squad has at least one female athlete. This time, Schroder does not want to miss the trip to Asia.
“To compete at the Paralympic Games has been my dream since I started to play Para ice hockey. It would be massive to be able to be there. But I want to deserve the place, not be awarded it,” said the 24-year-old.
According to Norway’s Para ice hockey manager Espen Hedge, there will be no doubt about the quality of the squad he will select to PyeongChang 2018.
“We will take the best possible team. If the players are men or women is not the most important thing for us. We are not offering free tickets to the Paralympics. If she is taken, then it must be because she is good enough,” said Hedge to NRK.
Norway is the second most successful nation in Para ice hockey at Paralympic Winter Games, only behind the USA. The nation took gold at Nagano 1998, silver at Lillehammer 1994, Salt Lake City 2002 and Torino 2006; and bronze at Vancouver 2010. The Scandinavians only missed the podium at Sochi 2014 when they finished fourth.
The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will take place from 9-18 March featuring 670 athletes from 45 countries competing in 80 medal events.