ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – With the Tokyo Paralympics and Beijing Paralympic Winter Games now scheduled six months apart, two-sport athlete Liam Hickey says he’ll likely focus on Para ice hockey for the rest of this two-Games cycle.
‘’It’s still up in the air, but especially now with the rescheduling going to the two Games back-to-back, it could be a burnout situation,’’ said the 22-year-old from St. John’s N.L., also a wheelchair basketball player. “Nothing is off the table. To have an opportunity to play at two Paralympics to represent your country is something I don’t take lightly.
“It’s a lot to think about.”
Hickey says he’s enjoyed his national team career in both sports, but his roots are in hockey and that’s why it is prioritized right now.
‘'Losing the final like we did in 2018 [at the PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games] has really motivated me to come back and make sure we win the gold medal,’’ he said. ‘’It’s hard to switch to another sport after a tough loss like that.
‘’Hockey Canada and Wheelchair Basketball Canada are two great organizations with great leaders on both sides that I’ve taken a lot from.
‘’The challenges to do both stem from time commitment and trying to give your all. They both deserve 110 percent of your effort.”
Since the PyeongChang Games in 2018, Hickey made a major position switch going from offence to defence.
‘’I’ve been able to take back some of my skillset on defence,’’ said Hickey. ‘’I use my speed for the breakouts and it’s been a fairly smooth transition. I like having the ability to control the play more and it really helps our game. It’s a good fit.’’
As a member of two national teams in recent years, Hickey seemed to always be in some part of the world playing hockey or basketball. The 2020 pandemic has given him more time to spend with his family in St. John’s, for which he is thankful.
‘’It’s the longest I’ve been home for a long time,’’ said Hickey, a 2016 and 2018 Paralympic Games team member. ‘’It’s definitely different. I’m usually travelling at least once or twice a month. It was a big change-up for me and I’ve really appreciated the additional time with my immediate family.’’
While at home, he is virtually pursuing physical education studies at Memorial University. He is also spending more time helping his community, working for the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance. He is producing and distributing information about the sport community and history.
A local company, Extreme Hockey, has provided ice time to Hickey three times a week with his local team and he still sharpens his wheelchair basketball skills once a week for two hours.
‘’The pandemic has given me a golden opportunity to fine-tune my game on the ice,’’ said Hickey. ‘’I’ve had a lot of time to work on my left-hand stickhandling and shot. In normal circumstances, those are the things you don’t enjoy working on, but the extra time gave me a different perspective and now I feel a lot more confident.’’
The support from his home province and family are elements that touch Hickey’s heart.
‘’Our entire family loves sports and what it does for us,’’ said Hickey, whose father was a high-level basketball player and fast pitch player. ‘’My dad is very competitive which is where I got that from. The support from the province is unreal. I wouldn’t be where I am now without so many people from this area.
‘’There’s so much commitment needed for high level competition; I don’t think it would be possible without that support. With a whole province rallying behind you, you feel proud when you’re on the main stage and playing in those big games.’’
Hickey would love nothing more than to pay back that support with a gold medal at Beijing 2022.