Tyler Carron and Nikko Landeros have faced off against some major life changes – and won. Yet, not a whole
lot about these two young U.S. National Sled Hockey Team defencemen has fundamentally changed.
What has changed is that five years ago, both had legs, and now, they don’t. What hasn’t changed is pretty
much everything else. They’re still good buddies, ambitious souls, typical 22-year-old guys and elite-level
athletes who won’t accept anything less than the best from themselves, or each other.
“We don’t even really look at it like we don’t have legs,” explained Carron, who along with Landeros, was
changing a flat tire on the side of a rural road in Berthoud, Colo., following a mid-winter high school
dance, when they were both struck and pinned between two SUVs. “We’re the same kids.”
“We played sports before, so we had a really competitive attitude then,” said Landeros. “So we just make
everything like a sport … even walking.”
The horrific collision on that dark, snowy road back in January 2007 resulted in both teenagers getting
their legs amputated, a devastating blow for the two multi-sport athletes who exceled in football and
But as Landeros emphasized, “we always strive to win,” and it wasn’t long before he and Carron found
artificial limbs, the strength to use them – and sledge hockey.
“When we first started, we tried and didn’t really like it,” Landeros said with a laugh of giving the
sport a shot not long after they were released from hospital. “We both had different injuries that held us
back from playing.”
“Really, it was just time that healed,” Carron added of overcoming obstacles ranging from learning how to
use their new legs, to going through intensive hand therapy due to severe nerve damage. But months of
rehabilitation and training turned an unfamiliar sport into an undeniable passion.
“We love it,” Landeros said of sledge. “It’s probably the coolest sport you can play if you’re disabled, I
think. You can hit people, everything is the exact same as normal hockey, except you’re in a sled. Even
able-bodied people can’t play sledge hockey … it’s hard!”
After joining their local sledge team, the NHL-affiliated Colorado Avalanche, Landeros, who had played
hockey as a boy, quickly moved on and up to the national squad, winning a gold medal with the United States
at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. Carron, a former state wrestling star, quickly
followed suit, joining the national team in 2010-11.
“We wanted to make the national team,” Landeros said. “It’s kind of just, setting goals that we learned
before to achieve different things.”
While other sports occupied their time before the collision that claimed their legs, Carron said
mono-skiing, wakeboarding and, of course, sledge hockey are their preferred activities now, and definitely,
“keep us busy.”
“Sports make you tougher,” he said of how continuing to live an active lifestyle has helped them overcome
obstacles resulting from their injuries. So while they’ve had to adjust what and how they play, Carron and
Landeros continue to compete, laughing along the way.
“We’ve got self-confidence,” Landeros added. “We’re a lot bigger than people with legs, even, so we don’t
worry about that at all.”
Okay, perhaps something else has changed. As the two young jocks joke around, even finishing each other’s
sentences, it’s clear they’re more like brothers than buddies.
“We were friends then, (but) now we’re pretty much family,” Landeros said.
Carron said having each other has made their shared journey “a lot easier, because you have someone to
talk about your problems with, and to just kind of keep you going.”
“It’s weird to say, but it’s better than having one of us die, or … something could have happened to our
brain, but we got lucky,” he said. “I’d say we’re blessed.”