Goals Unlimited

Posted by EmpowHer Stories in Life After Paralysis on February 15, 2023 # EmpowHer Stories

It’s Sunday morning, I secure myself into my sled after chatting and laughing with my teammates in the locker room. I can feel the cool mist on my face coming off the ice and smell the crispness in the air. One by one, we file through the door with the distinct chipping sound when the ice picks are driven into the smooth surface. We start with warm-ups and drills, sweating and pushing our limits with close friends. This is where the hard work starts, and it continues off the ice.

The work ethic, connection and camaraderie I receive from playing sports started at a young age. Before my injury, I tried many sports, both competitively and recreationally. My main trio of sports was field hockey, skiing and track. I would run on my family’s dirt road in the off-season and lift weights in high school, as well as study the playbooks. One of my coaches told me I was always the one with a heart and a different kind of drive. This passionate approach greatly helped me recover after my spinal cord injury (SCI) from alpine skiing in 2006.

After my accident, I first had to forgive myself. Then, I had to forgive sports. It was a long journey that started with attending many adaptive sport clinics with Maine Adaptive and Northeast Passage after completing my degrees. I enjoyed being with other people with disabilities who normalized my own. I started with kayaking because it felt the same as it did before and it was the easiest transition for me. Everyone has to sit in a kayak and it uses mainly upper body strength. I was able to leisurely paddle with family and friends, but my competitive spirit got a hold of me when I found out you can race.

I moved south to train for kayaking on the U.S. Paracanoe Team and earned a silver medal at the International level in 2014, but I fell in love with sled hockey the first time I got on the ice. Not only did I get to compete on co-ed teams (often co-ed because I was the only woman), but sled hockey was a full contact adaptive team sport. I shortly became the goon, the enforcer who deters poor plays by the other team, on the Florida Bandits, where I learned from the best U.S. Men’s Sled Hockey Team player, Declan Farmer. Our old school coach with his thick Boston accent, Ron Robichaud, led us to multiple National titles. It was at this time that I found out about the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team. I was able to muster up the courage to go to tryouts, strongly supported by family and friends.

I made the team and I have been on the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team since the 2014-2015 season. We’ve competed nationally and internationally, recently winning a gold medal at the first International Paralympic Committee-sanctioned Women’s World Challenge and I scored a goal in the series. The ultimate goal for any athlete is to be on Team USA or to go pro; I never thought that was possible after my SCI. I am grateful because adaptive sports have helped me professionally and personally. I have gained so many friendships, collaborations and leadership skills from this strong community. I encourage everyone with an SCI to try adaptive sports, it is a fun way to stay in shape and bond with others. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next athlete representing the red, white and blue.

Monica Quimby is a World Champion, USA Hockey committee member and elite athlete on the U.S. Women's Sled Hockey Team. She is a Coordinator for a Leaders Program for BACKBONES, enjoys traveling and gardening on her lanai.

This blog is a part of the Disability EmpowHer Network and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation collaborative blogging program, which uplifts the voices of women and girls with spinal cord disabilities.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.