It seemed just a little unfair.
While Declan Farmer and his gold-medal-winning teammates returned home from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games to hero's welcomes this week, the 16-year old forward from Tampa, Fla., had something else waiting for him.
A big old pile of homework.
Such was the reward for spending two glorious weeks on the coast of the Black Sea, helping Team USA successfully defend its Paralympic sled hockey championship.
Another reward could be around the corner for Farmer and his teammates. Farmer has been nominated for the Best Male Paralympian award and the sled squad has been nominated for the Team of the Paralympic Games award in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s inaugural Best of U.S. awards. Fan voting continues through Friday on the U.S. Paralympics Facebook page, and the winners will be announced during the Best of U.S. Awards Show on April 7 on NBC Sports Network.
“That's a really big honor,” Farmer said. “I was thinking it would be someone else on our team. But it's a big honor to be nominated for that.”
As for that homework? Don't think that he minded that one bit.
“I'm really glad we were able to win over there,” Farmer said. “It was really crazy. It didn't sink in at first. It was everything that the team worked for during the year. It was really awesome.”
Instructed by his teachers at Belmont Prep to stay away from the books, Farmer, a bilateral leg amputee, was free to pour all his of his considerable youthful energy into his team's hunt for gold.
“My school didn't want me to bring anything over there,” he said. “They wanted to me to focus on the games.”
Farmer followed those directions to a tee.
And so did his teammates, by posting wins over Italy and South Korea in the preliminary round, a 3-0 whitewash of Canada in the semifinal and, of course, a masterful 1-0 clampdown on host Russia in the gold-medal clash.
“We learned so much more about hockey from the coaches over the past seven months,” Farmer said. “The team chemistry improved over that time. That's why we were really able to win. We were so close as a team.”
Yet the march to the medal was anything but dull.
There were more enough white-knuckle moments at every turn to keep everyone focused.
Take the 2-1 round-robin loss to Russia. It could have sent Team USA into a tailspin heading into the semifinal matchup with Canada.
“We just weren't getting the bounces,” Farmer said. “We got shots in that game. We were playing really well. [Goaltender] Steve [Cash] kept us in it. But we weren't getting bounces. It was kind of a wake up call for us, that we needed to be on our game at all times.”
The Americans answered the alarm with a massive effort, as Farmer scored twice and Cash posted his seventh career Paralympic shutout.
“I was definitely feeling good before that game,” Farmer said. “The whole team felt good, and we were fortunate to get some bounces.
“Everyone played their best game of the season.”
Still, all of that was a mere prelude to the grand finale, the rematch with
Russia in front of a near capacity crowd of 7,000 people at Shayba Arena.
“We were super pumped,” Farmer said. “They're our biggest rival, and
that game could have gone either way.”
Josh Sweeney's breakaway goal in the second period sucked the air out of the crowd and sent the U.S. bench into a frenzy.
“Everyone was going crazy,” Farmer said. “We saw him get the puck, and the next thing we knew it was in the back of the net.
“We were excited to get that goal. We wanted to add to the lead.”
They weren't able to do that, but thanks to another shutout by Cash, they didn't need to.
The door was slammed on the Russians.
With gold draped around their necks, Team USA watched as the red, white and blue was raised to the roof, crooning along to the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” with every pull, even if they were a bit off-key.
“We weren't that great of singers,” said Farmer, laughing.
But they were the best sled hockey players on the planet.
They have the gold to prove it.
And what about all that stacked up homework?
Well, while all his Belmont classmates were enjoying their March break, Farmer found himself in an empty classroom, digging into those missed assignments.
“I had to start making that up this week,” he said.