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Fox Chapel grad Dan McCoy earns spot on U.S. sled hockey team at 2014 Paralympics

| Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Dan McCoy, 19, a Pitt student, takes part in a weekly workout with Achilles International in Schenley Park on June 8, 2013. Achilles International’s mission is to enable persons with disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
Dan McCoy, 19, a Pitt student, takes part in a weekly workout with Achilles International in Schenley Park on June 8, 2013. Achilles International’s mission is to enable persons with disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics.

Dan McCoy is a team captain and star of the Pittsburgh Penguins sled hockey team. He doesn't let the fact he suffers from spina bifida get in the way of glory.

The 19-year-old Fox Chapel graduate and current Pitt student also has become a sort of celebrity — not just because his face is on a mural at a Pittsburgh Primanti Bros. restaurant.

He recently was named to the 2014 United States Sled Hockey team that will compete in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“For me, it's been a goal of mine to be a part of the Paralympics since 2002 when they won the gold medal in Salt Lake City,” McCoy said. “Ever since I heard about that, I made it my goal.”

The games will be March 7-16.

McCoy was 8 when he first had Paralympic aspirations. Josh Wirt, McCoy's Mighty Penguins teammate, was on the 2002 title team and brought in the gold medal to show the team.

McCoy tried out for the Paralympic team in July.

More than 60 players battled for 18 spots on the team.

“I was very excited,” he said about making the team. “Just to finally achieve being on the Paralympics team, to me, I achieved a goal in itself right there.”

Before tryouts, conditioning became an issue for McCoy after he suffered a Mallory-Weiss tear a day after he played two games in one day. Mallory-Weiss occurs in the mucus membrane of the lower esophagus.

“I woke up at 5 the next morning, and my stomach was hurting,” McCoy said. “I ended up throwing up six pints of blood in two minutes. It had nothing to do with hockey and could've happened to anybody the doctors said.”

McCoy's toughness showed as he ended up playing in a tournament a week later in North Carolina with the United States men's national team. His team won the championship, defeating Korea, 5-2. He netted two goals in the title game.

Preparation for the games is already under way and requires a tougher training schedule than usual. A normal week for McCoy includes three days a week in the weight room and three to four days practicing on the ice.

He will start traveling with the team in September as it competes in tune-up tournaments. In January, the team will travel to Colorado Springs to practice at the Olympics training center.

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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