Michigan pair aim for spots on U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two members of the Grand Rapids Sled Wings sled hockey team are among 61 select athletes from across the country who have been invited to try out this weekend for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team that will compete at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Defenseman Tyler Anderson of Jenison (left) and forward Robert Thrailkill Jr. of Grand Haven will participate in tryouts this Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20 at the Northtown Center at Amherst in suburban Buffalo, N.Y. The 17 roster spots for the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team will then be announced on Wednesday, July 24 at 11 a.m. on usahockey.com.

sled duo

Tyler Anderson (left) and forward Robert Thrailkill Jr. Image courtesy of Grand Rapids Griffins

The Sled Wings, a talented team of children and adults who have physical disabilities, are sponsored by the Griffins Youth Foundation in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. They became the first junior-level sled hockey team in Michigan upon their founding in 2001, and they have gained a national reputation by winning various prestigious tournaments and continuing to develop high-caliber players.

Chief among those is Anderson, who has already logged three seasons (2009-12) as a member of the U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey Team, in addition to more than a decade with the Sled Wings’ junior and adult squads. Anderson, who was born with spina bifida, remains involved with the Sled Wings’ junior team as a coach and has also played for both the Grand Rapids Junior Pacers wheelchair basketball team and the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association’s tennis team.

Formerly a lance corporal and combat engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Thrailkill only began playing for the Sled Wings’ adult team in December 2012. After losing both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan on October 26, 2010, the Pentwater, Mich., native spent the next 25 months recovering at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

The United States earned the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. Team USA also won gold at the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, and bronze at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. More information about the tryout camp can be found at usahockey.com.

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