Cheswick resident basks in Paralympic gold with American sled hockey team
Dan McCoy arrived home in Pittsburgh late Monday after a 30-hour flight from Russia and found a welcoming party of friends and Mighty Penguins sled hockey team members waiting for him at the airport.
As the Paralympic gold medalist wheeled toward them — medal around his neck — they chanted “USA” and held signs to celebrate his arrival.
“It was cool to be able to share the medal with everyone and talk to everyone who helped me reach where I am today,” said McCoy, 20, of Cheswick. “It was a really cool experience.”
The United States defeated Russia, 1-0, in the gold medal game Saturday in Sochi to become the only country to repeat as sled hockey champions since the Paralympics started in 1994. Veteran Josh Sweeney, who lost both legs in an IED explosion while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan in 2009, scored the only goal of the game.
The U.S. lost to Russia in the preliminary round, its only loss of the tournament, and defeated rival Canada, 3-0, in the semifinals.
McCoy, who was born with spina bifida, started playing with the national sled hockey team as a 16-year-old and has traveled the world, winning bronze, silver and gold medals. None of it, he said, compared to the feeling he had Saturday when, lined up alongside his teammates, they placed the gold medal around his neck.
“This was a dream come true for me,” McCoy said. “It's unlike any experience I've ever had. Winning Paralympic gold, to bring it back, it's hard to put into words, representing Pittsburgh and my friends and family.”
McCoy was joined in Sochi by his parents, brother, grandfather and two friends. The American contingent was small, however, and McCoy said there was no ignoring the fact the majority of fans were rooting against them.
“The first game against Russia was completely sold out, and the gold medal game there were 5,500 fans all cheering for Russia,” he said. “Then there was our little group of fans from the United States. But to play in a different country for a gold medal in their home country and not have the crowd on your side and be able to win is definitely a cool feeling.”
The Mighty Penguins organization, with which McCoy got his start, receives support from sponsors Jones Day and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.
Foundation board member and Jones Day partner Fran Muracca said watching the last five minutes of the gold medal game was every bit as exciting as a Stanley Cup Final.
“Dan is an inspiration for anyone challenged with a serious disability,” Muracca said. “Some might say he was born to be a miracle hockey player. As a prodigy of the Mighty Penguins sled hockey program the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation was thrilled to support Dan and all the Mighty Penguins.”