Hidden Talent Takes Center Stage on Day Two of Camp
This is the second part of a four-part series on participants of the USOC Paralympic Military Sports Camp held at Naval Station Newport in Newport, R.I. We will feature a different participant each day of the Camp.
NEWPORT, R.I. - Army Veteran CeCe Mazyck (Columbia, S.C.) had one goal in attending the USOC Paralympic Military Sports Camp at Naval Station Newport: to impress National Team coaches in the hopes of one day becoming a Paralympian.
CeCe Mazyck understands all the hard work needed to achieve this feat. She is prepared and ready for it, already training three times a week for weightlifting.
But that could all change after Sunday's Camp activities.
At Saturday night's Camp meeting, Paralympians Jeff Fabry, TJ Pemberton and Scott Winkler were on hand to answer questions the participants had about the Paralympics, training and staying active after the Camp.
It wasn't the questions asked, but one comment from Scott Winkler that really hit home for a lot of the participants including Mazyck.
"Every one of you has a hidden talent in your body," Winkler said. "You are going to find it here."
On Sunday, Mazyck found hers.
The Finding of a Hidden Talent
Mazyck headed to the track at 0800, excited about getting back into a racing chair for only the second time.
Mazyck isn't a stranger to track events. She was a high school sprinter and now a self-proclaimed "javelin junkie." But she looked hesitant about getting back into a racing chair. She hadn't been in one in more than two years.
"I think I'm going to need a football helmet for this," Mazyck joked before taking off around the track.
Everyone at the track could see it. Mazyck knew it. She was a natural.
"It does come naturally for me," Mazyck said. "I don't know what it was. It was only my second time in a racing chair and although it didn't fit as well as the first time it just felt very natural."
National Team Wheelchair Track Coach Wendy Gumbert and retired Paralympian Paul Nitz were both impressed with her 100m and 600m performances.
"She has a good build for this with her long arms," NItz said. "If she keeps at it and works hard she has a good chance of making the Team."
On Sunday, Nitz was her motivation around the track.
"I liked racing Paul," Mazyck said. "He's the Paralympian so I tried to beat him."
Her love for competition is evident in any activity she is participating in at the Camp. After lunch, Mazyck moved to sitting volleyball. She was flying all over the court hitting any balls she could get to.
"In any camp that I go to I try to shine and always do my best,' Mazyck said. "I give 110 percent in whatever sport I am doing."
The Paralympic coaches and athletes at Sunday's camp took notice. At the Camp meeting that night she was awarded the McDonald's Athlete of the Day award. Fellow group member and Marine Corps veteran, Gina Fraley took home Visa's Leadership of the Day award.
"Winning that award feels great," Mazyck said. "I'm privileged."
"Girl power," Mazyck added. "There aren't that many of us here."
Gumbert is going to help Mazyck get fitted for her own racing chair soon. Then, she can begin to train for track full time.
The Regaining of Confidence
This is Mazyck's third time as a participant at a Paralympic Military Sports Camp. She attended her first camp three years ago in Colorado Springs, Colo. at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Mazyck was a human resources manager for the Army when she was injured in 2003. Sergeant 1st Class E7 in the 82nd Airborne Mazyck was on a routine jump at Fort Bragg in North Carolina when the wind made her and another jumper collide and entangle in the air.
"It's called a high altitude entanglement," Mazyck said. "I didn't have time for a prepared landing so it just made me burst into the ground."
She was instantly paralyzed from the waist down, but less than a year later Mazyck was walking with a cane and becoming active in sports again. She doesn't know what she would do without camps like this one.
"What you want me to sit in my house and not do anything?" Mazyck said. "That's not in my character. Not at all."
It's hard to imagine that Mazyck was too afraid of people looking at her to pump her own gas before her first camp.
"This is like a savior," Mazyck said. "It's like you are in the outside world with all these able bodied people walking around and you just seem like this is me in this little corner in my wheelchair helpless. But once you come around here and you surround yourself with people like you, you feel comfortable so you take what you have here, store it and use it when you go out."
"I was so concerned and consumed with that," Mazyck said. "You probably couldn't tell, but on the inside it was there."
Now Mazyck isn't afraid to do anything. She is a firecracker, always making jokes, willing to learn, trying new things and motivating those around her.
It seems like Mazyck already has the balancing act down of a Paralympic athlete. The single mother of 7-year-old Tristen is also a full-time sociology student and training.
The University of South Carolina senior hopes to one day work for the VA as a social worker for disabled veterans returning home from Iraq, especially women.
"I'm pretty sure there are females that are out there that want to participate and really don't know anything about this," Mazyck said. "I'm thinking how am I going to be an advocate for other females to let them know about services like this that
is are available for them."
She has already motivated one person to attend these camps, her boyfriend of nearly a year Darrell Fisher.
"Darrell was in the Air Force and has been injured for six years, but has never participated in something like this before," Mazyck said.
She knows what these camps have done for her, introducing her to "the right techniques, how to play and the knowledge of different types of sports all needed to excel."
"I'll know my strengths, my weaknesses, if I love it, if I don't," Mazyck said. "I had more confidence after attending my first Camp."
She wants that for her fellow wounded warriors as well and is spreading the word any way she can. She lives now by the motto "adapt and overcome" and is always reaching for her new dream.
After seeing fellow wounded warrior and rehabilitation partner, Scott Winkler, make his dreams come true after attending a USOC Paralympic Military Sports Camp, she wants it for herself.
"My dream is becoming a Paralympian and going to the Paralympics," Mazyck said confidently.
She hopes London's calling.