Hugo Raedler might be a new addition to the German team Para ice hockey team but the defender is looking ahead to April’s World Championships with optimism.
He will travel to Gangneung, South Korea, where Germany will try to be one of five teams to qualify for PyeongChang 2018.
If they do so, it will be the first time the Germans have qualified for a Paralympic Winter Games since Torino 2006.
Raedler is confident they have a good chance. Germany recently won against Norway for the first time in nearly 20 years at an exhibition game.
“I was a bit sceptical,” Raedler said. “But a couple of people who had stopped playing came back, including players from Torino 2006.
“If we play against Norway or Korea or Italy we are still the underdogs. But on a good day anyone can win against anyone else. It’s not like Norway is killing you 8-0.”
A double-above-the-knee amputee, Raedler started playing Para ice hockey properly in 2015 after the German team invited him to come and watch them play.
A short while later he made his international debut at the 2016 European Championships in Sweden.
Looking back, Raedler said: “I played in Ostersund. I played two games against Russia and I got slammed into the walls. I was using a borrowed bucket.”
At first he also used various pieces of equipment, including the bucket which resulted in a crash and injury. He is still trying to get to grips with the detail of the sport.
“Puck handling is difficult, I’ve been working on that for the past four or five weeks. It doesn’t work too bad in training but sometimes I have no one to pass with. There is quite a lot of technical training. Using the left hand is hard,” he said.
Despite this, he is determined to carry on and will make his World Championships debut in April when he hopes he will be a regular part of the formation.
Having survived stepping in front of a train, Raedler is now a doctor in Munich and is a keen sportsperson.
“Looking back it’s kind of funny. I was taken to a military hospital in Germany and they said ‘you will need a special bed etc’,” he said. “But in the end, I have no legs, so what?”
The 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships A-Pool will take place in Gangneung, South Korea, from 11-20 April.
World and Paralympic champions the USA, Worlds silver medallists Canada, Norway, Italy, Germany, South Korea and Sweden are amongst the teams expected to compete.
The top five teams will advance directly to PyeongChang 2018, whilst the bottom two teams will play at the qualification tournament later in 2017.