ATLANTA – Four members of Shepherd Center’s sports teams are headed to London to compete in the Paralympic Games, Aug. 29 to Sept. 9. Swimmer Curtis Lovejoy, track athlete Cassie Mitchell, long-distance racer Krige Schabort and fencing coach Julio Diaz will participate in the 2012 Games.
Lovejoy, of Atlanta, a member of the Shepherd Sharks swim team, is a nine-time medalist in four previous Paralympic appearances as a swimmer and fencer. At age 55, the Atlanta resident is the oldest member of the 2012 U.S. swim team in London, where he will compete in three individual races and one relay event.
Mitchell, of Atlanta, is a world-record holder in cycling, but punched her ticket to London with the track-and-field team, racing in the 100- and 200-meter events, as well as discus. The first-time Paralympian from Warner, Okla., lives in Atlanta and is a member of the joint biomedical engineering research faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. She studies neurological injuries and diseases.
“What I think about the most is how much it will mean to run for my country,” Mitchell says. “I’ve done the world championships before, but it’s not the same as the Olympics. It’s my chance to compete for the United States. Wearing the USA uniform, the opening ceremonies, having the flag there. That’s going to be as impressive as the competition itself.”
Schabort, a South Africa native who now lives in Cedartown, Ga., enters his fifth Paralympic Games, but his first as a member of Team USA. Schabort, a long-distance racer and triathlete, became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and has been involved with Shepherd Center’s sports programs since the 1990s. He will participate in the 5,000-meter race, as well as the marathon, which takes place on his 49th birthday on Sept. 9.
Diaz, of Lilburn, Ga., heads to London as an assistant coach for the U.S. wheelchair fencing team. The Shepherd Swords head coach was once a U.S. national team member himself.
“It’s an honor to go with the team,” Diaz says. “My goal is just to be there for them. That’s where I get my satisfaction. These are amazing athletes. I get my inspiration from them.”
More than 100 athletes participate in 11 Shepherd Center-sponsored sports teams. Since the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, 26 Shepherd athletes have qualified to represent the United States in the Paralympics.
To watch Shepherd’s athletes at the Paralympic Games, Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, visit www.paralympic.org. Full event schedules and 580 hours of broadcasting will stream live during the Games. Also during the Games, U.S. Paralympics will provide 10 daily video highlights packages via its U.S. Paralympics YouTube channel. And NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air one-hour highlight shows at 7 p.m. EDT on Sept. 4, 5, 6 and 11. On Sept. 16, NBC will broadcast a 90-minute special from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EDT. All NBC and NBC Sports Network Paralympic highlight shows and specials will re-air on Universal Sports Network and UniversalSports.com.
For people interested in signing up for an individual or team sport sponsored by Shepherd Center, visit www.shepherd.org/resources/sports. Shepherd sports include basketball, quad rugby, fencing, power soccer, racing, handcycling, swimming, bass fishing, water skiing, softball and indoor shooting.