What’s better than a gold medal? Two before you’re even out of college.
“At this point, I am still in shock, and it is very difficult to put into words what it all means,” said Steve Cash, just days after returning from Sochi, Russia, where he earned a gold as the USA sled hockey goalie in the 2014 Winter Paralympics. “Having a gold medal around my neck is a dream come true in its own, much less having two of them!”
Cash, who has been working toward a degree in business administration at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, earned his first gold medal during the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada. And his second was earned earlier this month when the 24-year-old goalie from Overland, Mo., shut out Canada and Russia in the final two games in Sochi.
When he was only 15, he earned his spot on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team and took over as starting goalie in 2007. As an infant, Cash was diagnosed with cancer in his right leg. At age 3, part of the limb was amputated, and he’s worn a prosthesis ever since.
UMSL Daily caught up with Cash, who will be returning to his classes at UMSL this summer, to talk about Sochi and his future.
What are your future plans?
I have not made any substantial commitments one way or another. With a business degree, I feel I can pave many different avenues that will provide multiple opportunities for success. With my networking and connections made from hockey, I have numerous options that I can take advantage of. At this point, I will be focused on my academics and finishing my degree.
How has your sled hockey career impacted your higher education goals?
My career in sled hockey has inhibited my progress in school. My academic career has always been a priority of mine, and I have never given up on it. Being a Paralympic athlete, I am still considered an amateur which is why it is so crucial that I also obtain a degree to help set me up for future – financial and personal – success.
Do you have any crazy Sochi stories?
There was one incident that was, as I consider it, funny. I happened to be locked in one of the bathrooms in the village, similar to USA bobsledder Johnny Quinn. However, I did not Hulk my way through the door. I simply waited it out and let maintenance take care of it, all with a smile on my face. Although 45 minutes did feel like an eternity. However, I would like to say that the Sochi Organizing Committee did an outstanding job with planning, integrating and executing as far as preparations during the games. All of the facilities were immaculate, security was top notch and the volunteers and staff were very friendly.
Tell us about the beard. Did you grow it for the games? And are you keeping it?
I do still have the beard although I do not intend on keeping it. It was grown for superstition purposes, as all of the members on the team – or those who can – grow facial hair leading up the every major competition. It has been a tradition ever since I’ve been on the team and seems to be a lucky one at that.
Tell us about your relationship with some of the St. Louis Blues players. It’s been reported that you’ve hung out with a few. Have you learned anything from them?
My relationship, as well as the teams’, with David Backes is one that I can cherish as he is someone that I really respect and idolize. David is a tremendous ambassador for the sport of sled hockey. Being the kind of guy that he is, he takes an honest interest in what we do and helps gain exposure for the sport with it still growing, all without expecting anything in return. On top of that our relationship extends far beyond the sport of hockey. While we were at the Backes’ house enjoying dinner, we were fortunate enough to hang out with T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk. Throughout the course of the evening, all three Blues players took a genuine interest in our lives, and we were able to talk about things other than hockey. I could tell that they were enthralled by each and every one of our stories as we were their’s. I feel that it is a relationship that will last for a very long time, not only as a Blues fan but also as a friend.
You’re a member of the St. Louis Blues Sled Hockey team. Tell us how long you’ve been a member and how you got involved with them?
I have been a member of the DASA (Disabled Athlete Sports Association) Blues sled hockey team for 10 years. I had played stand up hockey for most of my life, until I found out about sled hockey at the age of 15 at an inline tournament here in St. Louis. Mike Dowling, who was the coach of the DASA Blues at the time, heard about my prosthetic and asked if I wanted to try something new. I tried sled hockey the weekend following, and I fell in love with it. Other than playing hockey in a team environment, what I love most about DASA is that they provide an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to play all kinds of sports and stay active. In turn, this allows people with disabilities to become more independent, healthier and develop friendships that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. It is very rewarding to see someone’s life make a full 180 in the best way possible, all because of sports.