Pat Sapp’s journey from Marine to Paralympic gold medalist

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 6:16 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Almost 70 years ago, Pat Sapp was born in Ohio. Nowadays, he resides in Biloxi with his family and his 2002 Paralympics gold medal.

Today, Sapp likes to draw. He’s also a silver stacker. One of his passions is giving back.

In the 1970s, he served his country for four years in the Marines before he was left disabled in an accident. Then, as Pat says, he served his country a second time - by playing for the United States Paralympic Sled Hockey Team.

“They had a camp at Lake Placid,” he said. “I tried out for it and actually made the team. All I wanted to do was play hockey, I just wanted to be on the ice.”

The team didn’t win a game trying to qualify for the Paralympics, but because the United States hosted the games, they received an automatic bid. After turning to a new head coach, they started to play well. Really well.

“The crowd at first had about 300 people in the stands,” Sapp said. “About midweek, the stands were full, because the United States kept beating everybody.”

He was the oldest member of the team. He was the only veteran. He was the team’s Spirit Award winner.

It was his leadership that helped guide the team all the way to the gold medal.

“It was against Norway. It was tied, and went into overtime, went into a shootout, and tied until the last shootout,” Sapp said. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

Before the games, Sapp and his teammates were just thankful to be on the ice.

Two decades later - just last month - the team was inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.

“You can’t believe that I’m in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “We got together, the players, at supper, and we all said, ‘what’s happening here?’ It’s crazy to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

But even with countless medals and trophies, the biggest victory for Pat was being able to compete for them at all.

“The coolest thing is that you’re back on the ice and playing hockey. Don’t care about anything else.”

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