The 2018 Winter Paralympic Games are three years away, but for local high-level athlete Tanner Fandrey, nothing will stop him from achieving his goal of playing in the games.
Now that he’s attended tryouts for the Team Canada sledge hockey development team, he’s one step closer to gracing the South Korean ice.
Fandrey, 18, of Lacombe County, has been playing sports his entire life. With lofty ambitions, he began playing adaptive sports after being diagnosed with avascular necrosis in 2009 and ankylosing spondylitis, a skeletal condition, in 2012.
Having a disability has never slowed him down, as he has continued to compete on the international circuit as a para-alpine sit skier with Team Alberta.
He skied with the team for two years, until he was classed-out.
“Basically, they said my legs were too strong, due to my condition, so it was hard to be classified in that way,” said Fandrey.
In para-alpine skiing, the skier sits on a sled with a bucket-like seat, and navigates down the slope with out-riggers, similar to sticks. Fandrey said he could get going at speeds close to 100 km/h.
During this time, Fandrey also continued to play his favourite sport, hockey.
“Attending the Olympics has been my goal, ever since it actually became a viable option,” said Fandrey.
After participating in a multitude of sports, Fandrey now plans to specialize in sledge hockey, balancing between training with Team Canada, individual skate and training sessions and playing with the Edmonton Impact senior team.
Now in his fifth season of playing sledge hockey, first playing with the Paralympic Sports Association Blades, Fandrey started with the high-level team last year.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, sledge hockey is very similar to stand up hockey, noted Fandrey. “The only real difference is that you are playing in a sled,” he said. “Offside, icing, the penalties are all the same.”
All of the same strategies and skills are involved in both games and are completely transferable. Also, sledge hockey is full contact, but there’s no tripping.
Fandrey plays defense for the Impact, but played ‘net’ during his stand-up hockey years. Sledge hockey is a game made for both disabled and able-bodied players. Both the individual’s disability and skill set help determine which position they will play.
For Fandrey, he has more weight in his sled with his legs, as opposed to a leg amputee, which gives him more weight to hit opposing players, making him a great defense player.
He explained that, whereas stand-up hockey is seemingly dependant on the lower body for strength, for movement and speed, sledge hockey depends directly on pure upper body strength. “There definitely was a difference in the muscles used.”
With the Impact, Fandrey tied for the most points in the last season.
The Impact also went undefeated, to finish first overall for the league.
He also got some ice time with the New England University playing in the New England Invitational Sled Tournament. He assisted his team to win second overall at the tournament and competed alongside both members of the U.S. and Canadian Paralympic teams.
Fandrey is also one of the many athletes selected by the Alberta Sport Development Centre, based in Red Deer at Red Deer College, to participate in an athlete enhancement program.
Athletes selected for the program are supported in their growth and development through sport science programs. Athletes participate in strength and conditioning, fitness testing as well as attending the Winning Edge Seminars on mental skills, nutrition, public speaking, media training and other sessions.
“They have helped me a lot with specialized training and nutrition.”
Fandrey will begin to train with members of Team Canada this February, looking towards his Olympic goal.