PyeongChang 2018 already was filled with memorable athletic performances and athlete stories. But the last day of the Winter Paralympics arguably served up the biggest thriller, not just of the Games, but of the year.
The gold medal match between the two Para ice hockey giants Canada and USA kept everyone watching holding their breath until the final siren. The drama, tension and last second victory means it tops the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 10 Moments of 2018.
Declan Farmer was the hero for USA.
With 37 seconds left in regulation and USA down by one, the 20-year-old two-time Paralympian scored the equaliser.
Then, 3:30 into overtime, Farmer sliced the puck between two defenders to score and give his side the 2-1 victory over the very team they lost to at the 2017 World Championships.
“This is incredible,” Farmer had said. “This is what you dream of, playing your arch rival in the Paralympic gold medal game and going to overtime. That was the best group hug celebration that we’ll ever have.
“We were scratching and clawing our way through that whole second and third period trying to get that goal. Steve Cash was shutting it down as the best goaltender in Para ice hockey history, and we were able to get that tying goal for him. In overtime, we were confident and just went out and did the job.”
The other side, it was an even more painful defeat to defenceman Rob Armstrong, who missed the opportunity to give Canada the gold in the last minute.
"It hurts. I will be playing that shot over in my mind for a long time, a very long time."
Billy Bridges, a member of Canada’s title-winning team at the Torino 2006 Games, initially broke open the scoring with 2:54 left in the first period.
Both teams battled through a scoreless second period. Just when it seemed Canada would spoil the USA’s hopes of a third straight title, Farmer changed the entire mood of the game.
“This game was so much more than 45 minutes,” Farmer had said. “It was the last four years of training and effort, and because of how far some of these guys have come and how far they’ve come, they need to be proud of this moment.”
“I don’t think there’s much motivation needed moving forward for us than coming just a minute short of winning gold at the Paralympics.”
The final showcased the joys of the Paralympic spirit and the heartbreaks that serve as motivation entering a new Paralympic cycle.