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Yohe joins Paralympic teammates at festival

By Alex Clark, 04/13/10, 9:30AM MDT

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The sixth annual USA Hockey Disabled Festival took place outside of Washington, D.C., this past weekend. And while the event once again featured the top deaf/hard of hearing hockey, special hockey, sled hockey and standing amputee hockey players squaring off against one another, this year’s Disabled Festival welcomed a new set of athletes: Paralympic Gold Medalists.

Yohe covLast month, the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team won the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, posting a perfect 5-0-0-0 record without allowing a single goal throughout the tournament. Over the weekend, several of its players attended the Disabled Festival as members of their respective club sled hockey teams.

One of those players is Team USA captain Andy Yohe (Bettendorf, Iowa), who competed for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Blackhawks Sled Hockey team. He toted his gold medal around with him throughout the Festival.

“The Paralympics give us an amazing platform to advertise our sport, so winning a gold there was huge,” he said. “We are very proud of our accomplishment, and honored to share that experience with the kids and other athletes at events like the Disabled Festival.”

USA Hockey’s Disabled Festival itself is a major exhibition for the various disciplines of disabled hockey, and has taken place across the country near major cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston. Next year, the Festival will travel to Minneapolis suburb Blaine.

“It’s great that we get a change to visit a new city every year,” said Yohe. “That gives us a great chance to really showcase all of the disciplines to different audiences.”

For the athletes, the Festival isn’t just a feel-good event. The competition can get intense.

“It can really get competitive,” said Yohe. “A lot of these sled club teams play each other all year long, so some pretty good rivalries form.”

After the games are over, however, Yohe and his Paralympic teammates will return to reveling in the friendship and strong bond that helped lead them to the gold just weeks ago.

“Obviously we formed into a pretty tight family over time,” said Yohe of his teammates, most of whom have been members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team for years. “And it’s always good to see family.”

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