BEIJING — The tears began flowing from Jen Lee’s eyes the second the horn sounded to sign that the United States had crushed Canada, 5-0, to win its fourth consecutive gold medal in Paralympic sled hockey.
Lee cried in entrance of the purpose as he celebrated with teammates. He cried because the gamers gathered to shake palms with the vanquished Canadians, and he cried once more as he waited to settle for his medal at China’s National Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
Lee had gained two gold medals beforehand, on the 2014 Sochi Games and the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. But not like this.
During the earlier 12 years he was the backup to Steve Cash, the longtime U.S. goalkeeper who is taken into account by most specialists to be one of the best sled hockey goalie ever. Lee lastly received his probability to begin when Cash retired final October, and there was some query about how the United States would fare with out him.
Lee did simply positive. He didn’t permit a purpose in 4 video games right here. But shaking off the stress of changing Cash and producing an equally spectacular efficiency to win gold weren’t what made him so emotional, he mentioned.
Instead, he described his transfer to the United States from Taipei, Taiwan, together with his household when he was 8 and the way he had dreamed of being an athlete and a “G.I. Joe.” He detailed how he joined the U.S. Army, how he misplaced his proper leg in a bike accident and the way he then discovered to play sled hockey. He defined the importance to him of the immigrant expertise and of serving his nation, first as a soldier, and now, as an athlete.
“All of those things came to me,” he mentioned, “because, you know, I am 35 years old.”
Hence the emotion and the tears, and for a lot of the different 16 U.S. gamers and the pinnacle coach, David Hoff, all of it made sense. Lee’s efficiency was the important thing to one other U.S. gold, and this time he was not a bench participant.
“He’s been the backup goalie for as long as I’ve been in the program,” mentioned Jack Wallace, a U.S. defenseman. “He put in the time, the hours and the work.” Referring to the crew’s opponent on Sunday, he added: “They had a bunch of A-1 chances today, and to have a rock wall behind us was everything.”
Lee made a number of good saves, together with one on a breakaway within the first interval when the rating was nonetheless shut. Canada’s goalie, Dominic Larocque, mentioned the sport may need been determined then.
“If we score a goal there, maybe it changes the whole game,” he mentioned.
But solely the United States managed targets. Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal scored two apiece, and Josh Pauls, the captain, potted one, too. Overall, the United States outscored its opponents on this Paralympics, 30-1.
It was actually not that straightforward 4 years in the past in Pyeongchang, when the United States confronted doom within the gold medal sport with underneath a minute to play in probably the most dramatic hockey video games in current reminiscence. Canada led, 1-0, and when the Americans pulled Cash to get an additional skater on the ice, Canada hit the submit with what may have been a game-icing purpose.
With new life, Farmer scored with 38 seconds to play after which added the additional time winner. That reminiscence was seared within the minds of the Canadians over the past 4 years, and so they got here to Beijing looking for revenge and their first sled hockey gold medal since 2006.
After Canada thrashed South Korea, 11-0, within the semifinal spherical, Tyler McGregor, Canada’s captain, mentioned something in need of the gold was not ok. Indeed, after Sunday’s loss, the Canadians couldn’t conceal their disappointment on the ceremony, accepting their silver medals the best way a baby may take a serving of steamed kale.
Through his personal tears, McGregor mentioned it was an terrible feeling to lose once more, however he described an amazing sense of satisfaction for the work his teammates and workers put into the final 4 years.
But Canada, so shut to profitable the gold in Pyeongchang 4 years in the past, misplaced to the United States twice at these video games by 5-0 scores, suggesting the Americans may very well have widened the hole.
“We refuse to believe that,” McGregor mentioned as he choked again the tears. “You have to maintain that belief.”
Pauls, who grew to become the primary sled hockey participant to win 4 gold medals, indicated the United States in all probability has elevated its lead over the remainder of the world, though he and different U.S. gamers acknowledged the position the pandemic performed on this Olympic cycle. The United States may need had a bonus in preparation over nations, like Canada, that had stricter anti-infection guidelines.
But Pauls additionally famous that this U.S. crew was a extra tight-knit group than any of the others he performed on, and it led to outstanding dedication and laborious work, he mentioned, particularly from Lee.
And if 4 lopsided scores weren’t sufficient of a warning that the United States didn’t plan to ease its grip on world sled hockey dominance, Pauls used phrases, too.
“We have the blueprint and we set the tone,” he mentioned. “It’s going to be up to the other countries to match it.”
Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.