Adam, Landeros: Friends on ice, foes on snow
Two-time X Games Mono Skier X silver medalist Brandon Adam is helping X Games rookie Nikko Landeros learn mono-skiing. Landeros is helping Adam learn a non-skiing sport that could take him to the Paralympics: sled hockey, or sledge hockey, a full-contact discipline where adaptive athletes battle for the puck on quarter-inch-thick blades. Landeros is a two-time sled hockey gold medalist with Team USA (2010, 2014). The pair met at the rink when Adam took up the sport in April 2015.
"I noticed [Adam] had a really good, positive attitude," Landeros says. "We started talking and just clicked. He was asking questions all the time, the way I was when I first started playing, and I thought it was cool that he was a double [amputee], too. I was giving him tips and he could relate because he has the same disability."
Landeros and Adam both lost their legs in 2007. In a tragedy that made the papers, Landeros and his best friend, Tyler Carron, were hit by an SUV while looking for tools in the trunk of a car to fix a flat tire. Both men, high school students at the time, lost their legs in the accident. (Today Carron holds a sled hockey gold medal along with Landeros.) Adam lost his legs to an IED explosion in Baghdad, Iraq.
Both Adam and Landeros started riding sit-skis shortly after, but Landeros excelled in sled hockey, which reminded him of being on the wrestling mat where he competed in high school. He made the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in late 2008.
Adam chose competitive sit-skiing, but in 2015 he was looking for something to do off the mountain. A friend suggested hockey, and by July he had made the Colorado Avalanche "A" team. When Colorado native Landeros visited Denver to practice with the Avalanche club team, Adam's aggressive style and passion for the game quickly caught his eye. The two became friends when they learned of each other's passion for skiing.
"Nikko is really into skiing. He was asking me all about how to get into the X Games," Adam says. "He's a great dude. Super competitive. My kind of people -- a little rough around the edges but a great guy and a great athlete."
Landeros bought Adam's used KBG sit-ski in November 2015. "It kind of throws you out of turns, but once I got used to that, it was really nice. And since he's a double amp[utee] too, it fits me perfectly," Landeros says.
Landeros and Adam are planning to practice together in Breckenridge before racing against each another in Aspen. "He's [Adam] got a lot of knowledge that would be super helpful," Landeros says. "I've watched him race. I watched him get silver, so skiing with him at X Games is a dream come true."
When it comes to competition, though, both Adam and Landeros are prepared to put friendship aside and fight for gold. "It's a bit of a role reversal for us," Adam says. "Usually, he's teaching me on the ice. Now, I'll be teaching him on the mountain. But when we line up to race, there are no friends. He understands that. But I will do my best to get him on the podium ... maybe."