“When I got home, that moment was all I could think about. But right now, I’m looking at the bigger picture. Not just that shot but the whole experience. So there’s a lot to learn from that, other than that particular moment.”
It is almost a year since Canada’s Para ice hockey team were 37 seconds from winning a Paralympic gold medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games. A late USA equaliser levelled the score at 1-1 before Canada succumbed to a 2-1 overtime defeat – a memory that will take a while for Canada’s Rob Armstrong to get over.
“I think about it a lot,” the 22-year-old from Ontario said.
“There’ll be a day when I can tell my kids what I’ve done but right now, I wish I could’ve performed better, we could've performed better.”
In the last minute, the defenceman had a chance to make it 2-0 and close out the match. But he missed and instead had to watch USA’s Declan Farmer find the net twice to take gold.
“When I got home, that moment was all I could think about. But right now, I’m looking at the bigger picture. Not just that shot but the whole experience. So there’s a lot to learn from that, other than that particular moment,” he said.
The next challenge
Returning to Canada with a silver medal in March 2018, Armstrong’s university law studies helped him get over his unfortunate ending to the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics.
“I decided to take some summer classes to move my focus somewhere else. So in the summer I was really focusing on a lot of schoolwork and transitioning that mindset,” he said.
“Leading up to the Games, it was all about the Games, so it was tough to get your mind off the Games, especially when it’s over like that.”
Those studies have also helped the 2017 world champion in his hockey career.
“When we have to buckle down and study the opponent, it’s good to have some dynamic outlook on it, and going to school does give you a different way to view things,” said Armstrong, who sustained a spinal cord injury as the result of a virus he contracted when he was six.
On the whole, he looks back on his Paralympic debut as a highlight of 2018, before being hailed as a hero as the team returned to Canada.
“The experience was unreal, the team we played with – I love those guys. A tight-knit team. We are obviously upset with what happened but I love the team,” he said.
“Another good thing last year was making this new team. We’ve got lots of new guys coming up and I’m really excited to see what this core group can do, leading up to the world championships this year.
“We have six new guys in the team, I believe.”
Armstrong is using the abrupt final defeat in PyeongChang as fuel to work harder in the lead-up to the 2019 World Para Ice Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, from 27 April - 4 May. He hopes for a better end to that tournament – as Canada start their journey towards the next Paralympic Games.
“It was a disappointing finish, there’s not much else to be said, but I’ll definitely use that as motivation and now it’s a four-year plan leading up to Beijing (2022 Paralympic Winter Games), where the world championships definitely is a step one.”