Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs This year's Behind the Boat skiing and wakeboard camp at Bald Eagle Lake featured plenty of new faces. Nikko Landeros, though, is an old hand by now.
Landeros was back at the Access Anything and Adaptive Adventures camp for the third time since he lost his legs in a crash 2 1/2 years ago.
Landeros and his friend Tyler Carron, who didn't make the trip this summer, each lost both their legs after they were pinned against their Isuzu Trooper while trying to change a flat tire along a road near their hometown of Berthoud.
Both were high-profile high school wrestlers at the time of the accident.
Carron's and Landeros' regular attendance at the annual Steamboat Springs camp was proof that they weren't about to give up on their athletic ambitions. Their continued commitment to athletics goes far beyond the shores of Bald Eagle Lake, however.
They each recently earned spots on U.S. national sled hockey teams.
"I played hockey before my accident. Someone told me about sled hockey, (I) went for my first time and did pretty well," Landeros said.
That first taste of the sport turned into a spot on the national team in just seven months.
He said sled hockey is more difficult than regular hockey. Skaters balance on two thin blades and power their way around the rink with their arms.
"It's real hard. You carry two sticks, and you still have to keep control of the puck. It's hard to shoot, too. You're on the ground and you have to get the puck up," he said. "Wakeboarding actually helped a lot. It's all the same kind of movements in how you turn."
He said his speed and size - he's a big guy with big arms to propel him - helped him make the cut.
The new sport also has led to new dreams.
"The Olympics are coming up in March," he said. "The USA, we're the first seed right now."
Landeros' role in the Behind the Boat camp has changed since he first came three summers ago, just six months after the accident that overturned his life.
"I'm a volunteer helper this year," he joked, pausing for a few minutes to offer fishing advice to a young camper along the shore.
He said his commitment to the national team has limited what he can do in other sports and even limited what he was allowed to do on his annual lake trip.
He also said he had no plans to miss the Steamboat camp any time soon - meaning Steamboat, which has no shortage of Olympians, soon could have yet another regular Olympic visitor.
"Steamboat's beautiful," Landeros said. "I've known these guys for a while now, and I just like to come out and have some fun with them."