Precious Mettle

By Carolyn Cosmos

When the U.S. sled hockey team won gold at the Paralympic Winter Games in South Korea in March, a duo from Colorado was an integral part of the team. Eleven years after an accident left them both with double amputations, Nikko Landeros and Tyler Carron by all accounts are happy and healthy. And fast.

Coach Guy Gosselin said the two complete a tight-knit 17-member team from across the country, with one common attribute: All have a physical impairment. Many, like Landeros and Carron, have lost limbs.

“We have cancer survivors and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who were blown up,” Gosselin said.

Needless to say, the men have shown their mettle on and off the ice.

The team trained in Chicago, working out before dawn and having daily practice games, evening games, and competitions out of town. “But it’s mental toughness that creates the will to keep going,” said Carron.

“I can hit and I’m not afraid of getting hit,” said Tyler Carron. He has made two trips to the Paralympics. Image courtesy of Hockey Canada Images.

In 2007, Landeros and Carron were high school classmates—best friends and wrestling teammates—changing a tire on a dark road after a school dance. An SUV slammed into them and pinned them between the vehicles.

Their lower legs couldn’t be saved. Landeros’ surgery left him a bilateral above-knee amputee. Carron’s amputation was above the knee on one leg and through the knee on the other. They were 17 years old. And resilient. Both men say it was difficult at first. “I was in a dark place, and we both had our rough times,” Landeros said. “What got us through was each other and our families.”

Carron agreed: “I always had a family member with me in the hospital 24/7,” and both families were “every day praying for us” in the chapel.

Another factor that helped in their recovery was community support. Determined to give back, they visited schools in the area. They told students that it’s normal to feel depressed and angry if something bad happens, that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, and that popularity is not as important as having one good friend.

Meanwhile, they found themselves featured in Parade Magazine, a PBS documentary, and, most recently for Landeros, a United Airlines ad campaign where he’s a superhero named “Fury.”

The two agreed that their prosthetist and friend, Christopher Hoyt, has played a major role. Like many amputees, they’ve had prosthetic problems, but, said Landeros, “I believe you get out what you put in.”

Nikko Landeros has a “good vision of the ice and can see plays develop in advance,” said U.S. coach Guy Gosselin. Landeros made his third trip to the Paralympic Games in March. Image courtesy of Allesandro Crea.

He and Carron wear Ottobock C-Legs with microprocessor-controlled knees.

In the end, “we’re pretty lucky,” Carron mused. “We’re still here and able to enjoy life. You go through something like this and you don’t take things for granted.”

Landeros said limb loss has led to his travels around the country and around the world. “I’ve seen the worst and the best. My goal is being happy, and my life is pretty good.”

A longer version of this article originally appeared in NOCO Style. Copyright 2018 Mountain Media/NOCO Style. Reprinted with permission.

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