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Northlake gold medalist receives hero’s welcome home

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Brody Roybal returned to Northlake Monday to a crowd of a couple hundred people in front of his family home.

Sirens warned the crowd the 15-year-old was on his way with an escort from Northlake Police. As the convoy drove up the crowd started chanting “USA, USA!”

Roybal and the U.S. Sled Hockey team earned a Gold Medal in the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, winning four of their five games. Roybal scored two goals in the first game against Team Italy and assisted in other goals.

Roybal looked a little overwhelmed by the crowd as he exited a police SUV and got into a wheelchair, gold medal around his neck.

At age 15, Roybal is the youngest Paralympian ever, said Jim Smith, treasurer of USA Hockey, who accompanied the team to Russia.

“They called them the Diaper Line,” Smith said. “With Declan Farmer, age 16 and Josh Pauls, whose 20.”

Joe Huizar, who shared a reading class at West Leyden High School with Roybal, was impressed.

“I think it’s pretty amazing that he did that,” Huizar said. “I talked to him in class. He’s a nice guy.”

Jessica Simons, another West Leyden student, was another fan..

“I just really supported him since Day 1 when I heard he was going to Russia,” Simons said.

“It’s a real inspiration for the kids,” his neighbor, Isabel Morales said.

Roybal has been playing sled hockey since 2006. Since being selected for the USA Sled Hockey team in July he has spent 13 hours a week working on his skills. That includes skating at 6 a.m. every morning.

The next Paralympics will take place in South Korea in 2018. Roybal is already thinking about it.

“When we left Russia yesterday, he said are we still going to skate in the morning?” Smith said.

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