Team Player

Sledge Hockey Star Karl Ludwig

ParaSport Ontario Magazine

Karl Ludwig is dedicated, ambitious, a natural leader, and a team player. Those character traits have definitely been a winning formula for this seasoned athlete, contributing to his success on the ice during his 13 years of sledge hockey competition.

Not only is Karl the assistant captain of his team, the All Blacks, he was also nominated for the Ontario Sledge Hockey Association’s (OSHA) Male Athlete of the Year. In addition, the All Blacks are ready and primed to defend their championship title at the 2010 ParaSport Ontario Games. Karl also plays with the Team Ontario sledge hockey team.

Karl was born in Etobicoke, and raised in Brampton, Ontario, where he currently resides. The 20-year-old has spina bifida, has been playing sledge hockey with his club—the Cruisers Sports for the Physically Disabled—for the last 13 years. His introduction to the sport came at a very early age. When he was just two years old, his mother heard about sledge hockey, and signed him up. “I could barely move the sled,” he laughs. “But I tried again a few years later, and have been enjoying it ever since.”

Karl says he is very excited about the upcoming 2010 ParaSport Winter Games with his sights set on retaining the All Blacks’ championship title. “We’re the defending provincial champs. My goal is to maintain that,” Karl offers. His dream is to make the national team and compete at the Paralympic Games.

Being involved in sports and living an active lifestyle comes second nature to Karl. He has competed in wheelchair racing and throwing events, but found that track and field wasn’t the perfect fit for him. “I much prefer team sports,” Karl admits. He has also played wheelchair basketball, but in recent years, has decided to focus exclusively on hockey. “I love the teamwork involved with sledge hockey,” Karl enthuses. “I just enjoy the challenge, and I like playing physical sports, pushing my limits, and showing people what I’m capable of.”

Karl says he thrives on the physical competition that sledge hockey provides. “I’m very competitive, and it shows in sledge hockey. I love doing whatever I can to help my team win, and I love pushing myself physically.” He says he knows he has played a good game when he leaves every ounce of energy he has out on the ice at game’s end. “When I’m huffing and puffing in the dressing room, I know I’ve had a good game. You have to give it your all, and that’s all anyone can ask of you.”

Karl says he has learned many lessons from competitive sport. “It teaches you how to perform at a competitive level and challenges you to become a better player,” he shares. Playing within a team also provides valuable lessons. “Sometimes you’re not playing with the same people. Lines change, or you can be short-handed, so you have to be able to play with anybody on your team.”

Karl says that among his many career highlights, being part of ParaSport Ontario is one of the biggest. Other special moments include being assistant captain of his team, being invited to the national team tryouts, and being nominated for the 2008 OSHA Male Athlete of the Year Award.

As for disappointments on the ice, Karl admits he has had a few. “There have been games where we felt we should have won, but you learn to move on and learn from your mistakes.”

One of Karl’s ways to avoid those kinds of disappointments is practice, practice, and he does just that every chance he gets. “Every opportunity for ice time I get, I accept,” he says. “The more ice time I can get, the better my game will be.” He also tries to work out at the gym at least five days a week , focusing on upper body work and an occasional cardio workout.

When he’s not playing sledge hockey, Karl is pursuing his other passion—travel. He graduated from Humber College’s Travel and Tourism program in 2008, and currently works at a travel agency. Karl likes to travel whenever he can. “Sports have exposed me to lots of travel opportunities all over the world. Trying different things, going to different places and helping others is really exciting for me.” One of his favourite vacations took him to Germany. “That’s where my family is from, so that was really special to meet my relatives there.” A recent Scandinavian cruise ranks quite high on his list of favourites, too.

Karl says he would advise kids who are thinking about entering the world of parasport to always keep trying. “Don’t give up on your dream,” Karl encourages. “Do whatever it takes to get where you want to go, and make sure you are having fun along the way. Have fun, try hard, and enjoy yourself.” Karl cautions that struggle is inevitable, but that it is important to push through it. “Everyone has a point in sports when they struggle. Pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and keep trying.” That’s what Karl does … for the team.

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