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Young Rockwall man wins gold medal at Vancouver Winter Paralympics Games

By J.J. Smith. A young Rockwall man won a gold medal as a member of the championship U.S. sled-hockey team at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games in March, held in conjunction with and immediately following the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games at the same location.

Taylor Lipsett, 23, who just moved to Rockwall from Mesquite last November with his wife, Kathleen, was the leading goal scorer and achieved the second leading points total on the gold medal-winning team which upset the Japanese team in the championship match, 2-0. He scored five goals in five games, plus had two assists for seven total points.

The U.S. team was so dominant during the Vancouver Games that they scored 19 goals and gave up none, including additional victories over the Czech Republic, S. Korea and Norway.

According to Lipsett, who graduated from SMU in 2009 in finance as a National Collegiate Scholar, the Paralympics Games are well-known throughout most of the world, but are still gaining popularity in the U.S.

The Paralympics are for athletes with visual impairments and physical disabilities, such as missing limbs and lower body disabilities which require the use of wheelchairs.

“Many people associate the Paralympics with the Special Olympics. While both events are for those with disabilities, the Special Olympics involve athletes with cognitive disabilities, where as the Paralympics display the athleticism of those with physical disabilities,” he explained.

“The “Para” in Paralympics does not stand for “paralyzed”, but instead signifies the Paralympics being on “parallel” with the Olympic Games as far as venues, staffing, and athleticism.”

“It’s the second largest sporting event in the world, next only to the Olympics, with ticket sales in excess of 220,000. In Canada, where ice-hockey is the national sport, sled-hockey is a hugely-popular sport. The games are broadcast nationwide on TV, just like the ice hockey matches.”

The Paralympic Games are played during the two-week period after the main Winter Olympic Games. They include Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Wheelchair Curling, Biathalon and Ice Sled Hockey.

Sled-hockey is ice hockey on a small sled for athletes who can’t skate or run. Players use two sticks instead of one to propel themselves around, in addition to hitting the puck. Also called sledge-hockey, the sport was developed in the 1960′s at a rehabilitation center in Sweden but has only been in the U.S. for the past two decades.

He said it was a huge honor for him to represent the U.S. at the Paralympics.

“It was a huge honor to represent the United States. To be a part of it and put on a U.S. jersey is the utmost honor I can achieve.”

Generally confined to a wheelchair, Lipsett has dealt with Osteogensis Imperfecta since childhood, a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily. It’s often called “Brittle Bone Disease.”

“I’ve broken bones about 110 times during my lifetime,” he said. “About 75 bones in my legs – 55 in my left and 20 in my right. I’ve also broken ribs, shoulders and arms. I was in a cast from the chest down for 6 months out of every year from when I was about 3 until I was 10.”

Since he wasn’t allowed to participate in P.E. in school or other sports, he tried to stay involved with sports by being the bat-boy on his older brother’s baseball team as he was growing up, the water boy for his middle school’s basketball team, and  then he became the head athletic trainer in high school.

Asked if he feels remorseful about having the disease, he said not since a long time ago.

“I’ve been able to travel the world, play sled hockey and have medaled the Paralympics twice. It’s molded me into who I am. I wouldn’t change any part of my life at this point,” he said.

The Paralympian said he started playing sled-hockey after a chance meeting in a Mesquite grocery store with the mother-in-law of a member from the 2002 team which also won gold.

“It was the first time she had ever been in that grocery store, as well as the last time.  She doesn’t live anywhere close to it, either, but on that day, it’s like it was meant to be,” he said.

Soon after, Lipsett participated in the 2004 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships in Sweden and helped Team USA win the silver medal. Two years later, he won a bronze medal on the U.S. team at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. He became an assistant captain in 2007-08.

In 2009, he was on the US team which won the World Championship in the Czech Republic, when they were named “Paralympic Team of the Year.”

Early this year he also won two gold medals as the U.S. team won the 2010 Japan Para Ice Sledge Hockey Championship and the World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

For the next two years, Lipsett plans to take some time off from sled-hockey so he can focus on his career.  He works full time for Bank of America’s Private Wealth Management division and plans to specialize in wealth management for athletes.

In 2012 he expects to begin training again, this time to prepare for the 2014 Olympics in Russia.

A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s “Team for Tomorrow,” a humanitarian relief fund through which Olympic and Paralympic athletes give back to local communities. He is getting involved with Rockwall’s Habitat for Humanity team this month as they initiate a new project near downtown Rockwall.

Through his sponsorship with The Hartford Insurance Company, Lipsett also travels nationwide speaking about overcoming handicaps and spreading The Hartford’s “ability philosophy,” which preaches to focus on one’s abilities as opposed to the things they cannot do.

He is also willing to speak locally for negotiable fees, especially if he can help youth who need to build their self-esteem.

Contact Lipsett at: USASledSniper7@gmail.com.

For information about the Paralympics Games , visit:  http://usparalympics.org/

For information about the U.S. sled hockey team, visit:

http://www.usahockey.com//Template_Usahockey.aspx?NAV=TU_10&ID=194136.

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