Curtis Lovejoy in action during the Men's 100m Freestyle - S2 heat at the Paralympic Games London 2012 on Sept. 3, 2012 in London.
A five-time Paralympian and two-time Paralympic gold medalist in swimming who also competed in wheelchair fencing, Curtis Lovejoy passed away Thursday at the age of 63.
According to an official statement from the Lovejoy family issued by his publicist Ebony Porter-Ike, Lovejoy lost his battle with the aggressive form of blood cancer that caused him to retire earlier this month.
“It is with great sadness that I announce our beloved Paralympian, Author, Husband, Brother, and Friend has passed away quietly last night,” the statement said. “His battle is over, and he is now in the arms of the Lord. I was honored to have been able to serve Curtis Lovejoy as his publicist for 4 years. His smile, spirit and determination to win was a natural part of who he was. In his last days, Curtis was still that beautiful spirit.”
Swimming became a part of Lovejoy’s life following a 1986 car accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury. Lovejoy began swimming as part of his rehabilitation program and by 1994 won his first world championship gold medal. He would make his Paralympic debut in Sydney in 2000 and win two gold medals, the first of four career medals he would win at the Games. In 2015 he was chosen as the flag bearer to lead Team USA into the Opening Ceremony of the Parapan American Games.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of Curtis’ passing,” said Erin Popovich, associate director of U.S. Paralympics Swimming. “He brought an unparalleled joy and spirit to Team USA, and his dedication to his craft shined each and every day. Swimming was a sport he once feared that he turned into a true passion. We will forever remember Curtis’ legacy in our sport and the strides he made for the Paralympic Movement.”
Besides his decorated athletic career, Lovejoy was an ordained Baptist deacon and a published author — his autobiography “Just a Little Love and Joy” came out in 2018 — and husband to his wife Mamie. In 2019, Lovejoy was diagnosed with leukemia but he still hoped to come back and compete in a sixth Paralympic Games in 2020. While Lovejoy’s health didn’t allow for one more Games, he reflected back on his career with satisfaction in speaking to USParaSwimming.org earlier this month.
“I’m not sad at all,” Lovejoy said of his retirement. “We have to look at the whole spectrum of what I have accomplished. Five Paralympic Games. Won a boatload of medals in swimming and fencing. …
“It’s been an honor.”