"It can be hard to explain what this experience has meant to me. But what I can say is that the Paralympics is something you need to experience for yourself. Find some way to get involved in the Paralympic Movement, and I promise it will impact you in ways you never thought possible. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world."
I watched my first Para ice hockey game in 2010. I got tickets to watch Italy vs Sweden at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics and went with some of my high school classmates. At that time, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in sports media.
But I could not even begin to imagine where I would end up several years later.
Fast forward to 2016.
Partway through my university degree in communication and kinesiology, I landed an internship with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as a social media winter sports intern. I relocated from Vancouver, Canada, to Bonn, Germany, for three months, developing social media content for the winter sports season.
During my internship, I heard a lot from IPC staff about their experiences covering the Rio 2016 Paralympics, and as I was really enjoying the work I was doing, I started to dream about somehow working at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics. I expressed this to my colleagues and at the end of my internship, I left saying “Hope to see you in PyeongChang!”
That is how, eight years after getting my first taste of the Paralympics as a spectator, I found myself in PyeongChang working with the IPC as their Para Ice Hockey Social Media Co-ordinator.
It finally sunk in that my dream was coming to fruition when I walked into the IPC office at the Main Press Centre (MPC) in PyeongChang and saw the familiar faces of some of my colleagues from my time as an intern.
Before competitions began in PyeongChang, the media team held a meeting in the MPC, with IPC Communications and Media Director Craig Spence reminding us that the work we would be doing would change lives.
That statement stuck with me, knowing that what I was doing would be incredibly powerful and fantastic.
As a hockey-loving Canadian and rink rat (someone who spends an obscene amount of time in ice rinks), spending nearly every day of the Paralympics in the Gangneung Hockey Centre covering Para ice hockey on social media accounts was an absolute joy.
I am not using hyperbole when I say that I loved every minute of it, from running around the rink taking photos and videos for Instagram stories, to conducting athlete interviews in the mixed zone. I became obsessed with the PyeongChang mascot, Bandabi, accustomed to running up and down the stairs between the press tribune and the mixed zone, and dependent on the Venue Media Centre’s heated canned coffee.
A definite highlight was being able to witness every minute of the rough, fast-paced, exhilarating sport. From watching Brody Roybal, Declan Farmer and Tyler McGregor light up the scoreboard, to Lena Schroeder making history as the first female to compete in Para ice hockey at the Paralympics since 1994, every day was full of new and exciting sporting action.
The medal games were something else.
The home crowd was outstanding as South Korea beat Italy for their first Paralympic medal in the sport. The feeling of excitement in the arena gave me goosebumps.
The gold medal game kept me on the edge of my seat (when I wasn’t running around the rink that is).
It was a classic Canada - USA showdown, showcasing the best of the best in the sport. The aftermath of the game is something I will ever forget. I got to witness first-hand the elation of the Americans, who had won their third straight Paralympic gold, as well as the heartbreak of the Canadians, who had let their first shot at winning gold since 2006 slip away.
It can be hard to explain what this experience has meant to me. But what I can say is that the Paralympics is something you need to experience for yourself. Find some way to get involved in the Paralympic Movement, and I promise it will impact you in ways you never thought possible. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
Liz Montroy received her bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She worked as the Para Ice Hockey Social Media Coordinator at PyeongChang 2018 and can be followed on Twitter @LizMontroy.