Florian Planker is no stranger to international sporting tournaments. Having represented Italy in three Paralympic Games as an alpine skier, he switched over to ice sledge hockey in 2006 and has not looked back.
He has since competed in two more Paralympic Winter Games – in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014– as well as three World Championships.
But if you ask him about his favourite memories, one answer comes quicker than any other.
“For sure, getting the qualifying spot for Vancouver 2010.”
Planker is talking about the World Championships A-Pool in 2009. At the end of the tournament, the top six teams would automatically go through to Vancouver, and Planker was determined that Italy would be amongst those six.
With the help of his long time team-mate, Gregory Lepardi, Planker scored the equalising goal against Germany that forced the game into overtime.
“It was great for the whole team because in Torino [2006 Winter Paralympics] they participated for the first time as the host nation and after three years to qualify again on the ice was incredible for a country like Italy,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, he also lists the 2011 European Championships in Solleftea, Sweden, amongst his most memorable moments. As rank outsiders, they defeated Norway in the semi-finals in dramatic fashion. Heading into the final game against Czech Republic, they finished with a 2-0 shut-out, and a triumphant Italian team took home the gold medal.
While Planker’s modesty may not allow him to mention it, there can be little doubt that the 2013 Paralympic Qualifiers in Torino was just as memorable for him. As the overall point leader for the tournament (eight goals and five assists in five games), he scored in every game Italy played, helping them to make it through to Sochi 2014.
Planker will line-up for Italy once again in 2016 as the defending European champions. He will no doubt take the opportunity to create more highlights in his already illustrious career.