The Paralympics have taken over PyeonChang and the world will get to witness some of the greatest athletes from around the globe. With earlier this year NBC announcing they will cover more of the Winter Paralympics than ever before, for 10 days the world will have access unlike ever before. Due to the historic event I wanted to dedicate this blog to the Winter Paralympics and sit down with close friend and US Paralympian Steve Emt.
I met Steve several years ago at a basketball camp where he was sharing his story with his captivated audience. His story was jaw dropping and immediately I gained a lot of respect for his ability to use his story to help others. Fast forward to early 2018 and I’m sitting down with Steve for a candid conversation on what it means to him to be representing Team USA!
Steve, give readers some background on you.
Been an athlete my entire life eventually walking onto the UCONN Men's Basketball Team from 1992-1994. Automobile accident in 1995 has left me confined to a wheelchair. Went back to school and got my teaching certificate. Been a teacher for 20 years. Was introduced to curling in 2013 and eventually worked my way up the ladder to making the Paralympic Team.
Can you explain how you became disabled?
Automobile accident on March 24, 1995. I was a drunk driver.
How did you get into the sport of curling?
One weekend in the summer of 2013 I decided to go to Cape Cod for the first time in my life to get away for the weekend. I checked into my hotel in Falmouth and asked them what I should do, being from out of town. They told me I needed to go to Woods Hole and get something to eat at the bakery called Pie in the Sky. I parked my truck, rolled up the hill, and sat and ate at the Pie in the Sky outside watching the ferries come and go. A man approached me and asked "Are you local?" To which I responded "No, I'm from CT...about 2.5 hours away." I asked him "Do you mind telling me why you asked me that?" And he responded "Well...I train with the Paralympic Curling Team here on the Cape and I saw you pushing up the hill. With your build, I can make you into an Olympian in a year." I responded "What's curling? and where do I sign up?" I came home, Googled wheelchair curling, went back up to the Cape a week later, threw my first few stones and I was hooked instantly!
Explain your sport to someone who hasn't seen it or only has only a vague idea of curling
Curling is the sport you usually see on TV during the Olympics where people slide a rock down the ice and then you see people brushing or sweeping the ice in front of the rock. And there is usually a lot of yelling involved. Except in wheelchair curling there is no sweeping so it is a lot more difficult on us!
What does it mean to be able to represent USA?
It means the world to me. In my opinion there are 2 great ways to represent our incredible country...through the military (I am a veteran) and through sport. To be able to travel the world and compete with my name, USA, and the American Flag on my back is an incredible honor.
No team USA makes it to the podium on their own, who has been instrumental in your journey to PyeongChang? Explain your training routine.
My coach at the Cape, Tony Colacchio, is by far the most influential person on my curling career. He is also the one that "stalked me" that day back in 2013! He lives his life making sure that anyone with a disability has the opportunity to participate in sports. He is an incredible man who I look up to as a father figure in my life. I train 4-5 days a week. Between the two curling clubs we have here in CT: Norfolk Curling Club in Norfolk and Nutmeg Curling Club in Bridgeport and the Cape Cod Curling Club in Falmouth MA. I'm driving a lot. But all the hours on the road are well worth the love I have for this game.
NBC recently announced it will air record hours of Winter Paralympic coverage, what are your thoughts on that?
I think it's incredible!!! The more exposure we can get for the adaptive sports the better. Seeing incredible athletes overcome obstacles and end up on TV in front of the world competing is awesome!!! It will absolutely give anyone that is in our situation the hope and the inspiration that they too can get out and compete and
possibly be a Paralympian one day.
Why do you feel there is a large difference in the support given to Olympians in contrast to our Paralympian’s (i.e. training stipends, medal bonus etc.)?
Great question and I'm not completely sure why. All I can think of is the glitz and glamour of the sport. Especially with curling with us not sweeping. However with no sweeping, it is a lot harder on us so we have to be more specific.
What are your expectations for the Curling team in PyeongChang?
We expect to win Gold. We've had a gold medal on our minds since last year's world championships. We are confident that we can compete with and beat any team in the world. All we need to do is put it together for 8 days and get on a run and we'll come home with our gold medal.
Tell us about Steve away from the ice
Off the ice...I love working with others. I'm a people person. Whether it's teaching, coaching, speaking, etc... Any time I can get out with people and interact I'm a happy man!