While the state of Missouri may not immediately come to mind when discussing women’s hockey, sledge and stand-up, Katie Ladlie is helping to change such notions, while contributing towards a new legacy. Hailing from Troy, Ladlie grew up in a family filled with athletes, ranging in sports from basketball to football and soccer, quickly leading to a love of sport. Today, they are an integral support mechanism as she continues to make an inspiring and subsequently empowering mark both on and off the field of play.
Born with a condition known medically as genuine diffuse phlebectasia of Bockenheimer, it is an extremely rare vascular malformation. Yet, perhaps even more rare is Ladlie’s remarkable ambition and enthusiasm for life. In the face of such illness, Ladlie made the brave decision to undergo amputation in order to alleviate the suffering, caused by a lack of cartilage in her knee. As a side note, a photograph of her leg was published in the Boston Medical Journal.
To display such courage and maturity in the midst of such a life altering procedure at a very young age is nothing short of admirable. Since the amputation, which occurred on June 17, 2011, at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Ladlie’s life would also change in another way. Being introduced to the highly dedicated and energetic Kelly Behlmann, the executive director and founder of the Disabled Athlete Sports Association (DASA), it would prove to be a defining moment in her young life, essential in shaping her confidence and strengthening her self-esteem,
“At a young age I was always wanted to be active but I was unable to because of my condition. So, after my amputation in 2011, a lady by the name of Kelly Behlmann invited me to go hand cycling just 4 weeks after my surgery.
After that day I got stronger and more active. Since then I have been on the swim team and track team not only for DASA but for my high school as well. I have also done some sprint triathlons.
Sports help give me a feel of normality. Sports have given me the opportunity to meet so many great people and friends. I am so grateful to the people who have helped my along the way.”
Coincidentally, Ladlie is not the only women’s hockey competitor from the Show Me State currently making an impact. Presently in her freshman year with the Ohio State Buckeyes stand-up team, Jincy Dunne, a resident of O’Fallon, Missouri played for the US U18 national team, scoring the gold medal clinching the goal against Canada at the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds. As a side note, her sister Jessica also plays with the Buckeyes.
Ladlie would experience her own milestone during 2015 as she was named to the 2015-16 national women’s ice sledge hockey team roster in October. Considering her remarkable athletic journey since 2011, the chance to be considered among the elite in her nation is a point of pride that shall always represent a cherished moment,
“Being on the US National team is an amazing opportunity! It is very humbling to be included in this group of great female athletes.”
Like Dunne, Ladlie would also gain an opportunity to compete against Canada. Travelling to Brampton, Ontario, site of the inaugural 2014 IPC Women’s World Ice Sledge Hockey Challenge, where the US bested Canada in the gold medal game, the city would present a new chapter in their rivalry. In November 2015, Brampton served as the host city in an annual three-game series between the two hockey nations.
For Ladlie, it also marked the next step in her promising ice sledge hockey career, as she made her debut for the United States. A blue chipper with raw talent, Ladlie donned the number two. Despite Canada prevailing in the series by a 2-1 margin, both featured many new faces on their roster, supplying an opportunity to evaluate new talent while providing young players such as Ladlie invaluable experience.
“It was pretty exciting and that’s when it really sunk in that I am representing the United States in the sport that I love. It was a great a great feeling to finally beat the Canadians on the last game that weekend. All three games were very physical and exciting. I was very proud of my teammates on the way everyone worked together and kept going.”
Recognized as a National Patient Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children for 2014-15, Ladlie was joined during that time by fellow ambassador Joe Dertinger of Minnesota, making appearances at a Shriner’s Hospital golf tournament, the Parade of Roses, and the prestigious Shrine Bowl football event. As a side note, she even participated in the ceremonial first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.
It is only fitting that a key part to the early success of both Ladlie and Dunne took part in St. Louis. Reputed as one of the best sports cities in America, the two have helped raise awareness for women’s sport while establishing themselves as young sporting heroes. Of note, Dunne skated for the St. Louis Lady Blues while Ladlie has seen her athletic career blossom with the St. Louis DASA ice sledge hockey team.
Competing with St. Louis, there is no shortage of elite talent on Ladlie’s club team, one that captured the 2015 Midwest Sled Hockey League championship. Goaltender Steve Cash is not only one of the world’s finest at his position, he is one of Missouri’s most accomplished athletes. Having earned gold medals with the US national team at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Cash is actually one of several national team members that mount the sled for St. Louis DASA. All have proven to be positive influences, and role models, for Ladlie.
“All of my teammates on the St. Louis DASA Blues were supportive of me and they all have really helped me grow more in hockey. The National guys, Josh Pauls, Billy Manning and Steve Cash have especially helped me out with a lot of advice and technique.”
Ladlie has established herself as more than just a nationally prominent ice sledge hockey player. Proving to be a highly competitive athlete, Ladlie has participated in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash through the use of a hand-cranked cycle, while recently completing her first half marathon.
Sport has proven to be an exceptional factor in helping her make a physical and emotional recovery following an amputation that has not sidelined Ladlie’s hopes and dreams. While college quickly looms on the horizon, Ladlie dreams of one day competing in the Paralympic Winter Games. Through it all, her greatest victory is the ability to persevere. Compelling charging through life with an indomitable spirit, not only does she instill hope in others whose lives may have been altered by disability, she has earned a spot in the hearts and minds of friends, family and fans as a true champion.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
– Ice sledge hockey image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/PositiveImagePhoto/?fref=photo
– St. Louis Cardinals opening pitch photo: UPI/Bill Greenblatt photo