Going for Gold - Hanna Hughes trying out for Olympic team - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Going for Gold - Hanna Hughes trying out for Olympic team


ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) - When the rest of the world turns its focus on the Olympics in Rio next month, Hanna Hughes will have her sights set further down the road.

"Hopefully to go to South Korea and play and show the world what women's sled hockey is all about," Hughes said.

On August 25, Hanna will fly out to Buffalo, NY and tryout for the U.S. women's sled hockey team. The club will compete in exhibition games at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Hanna didn't even play hockey growing up. Her mother said it was too dangerous. Instead, she was a soccer star a Lourdes. That was until her sophomore year when everything suddenly changed.

"I was having pain in my hip when I was playing soccer. That's when I went to the doctor and figured out everything that was wrong," she said.

Doctors found a tumor the size of a grapefruit in Hanna's right hip. Days later she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

"Basically in order to save my life they had to amputate my right leg, hip and half my pelvis," she explained. "After that, I did 17 more rounds of chemo and now I'm five years cancer free."

Alive and well but her days of playing a competitive sport were over. Or so she thought.

"When I went up to college at [University of Minnesota Duluth] the second day of school I met a kid, he rolled up to me in his wheel chair and asked me if I ever thought about playing hockey," Hanna recalled. "And I told him well yeah, when I had two legs. I thought he was joking."

No joke. Hanna was introduced to sled hockey and the rest as they say, is history.

 "I think naturally I just was an athlete so I picked it up pretty quickly and fell in love with it."

Now Hanna plays for the Minnesota Wild sled hockey team and trains locally with the Rochester Mustangs sled hockey team. If all goes according to plan, sled hockey could become a sanctioned paralympic sport in time for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing China. Hannah would be 28-years-old by then and 12 years removed from cancer..

"To think that I wasn't ever going to play a sport again and then get the opportunity to play at this level is pretty incredible," she said.

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