Retired veteran turned Paralympic athlete pays it forward

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Several paraplegic athletes competed in the Southeastern Regional Wheelchair Games in North Myrtle Beach this weekend, and they had a special cheerleader encouraging them from the sidelines. Centra Mazyck went from retired veteran to Paralympic athlete, and now she’s helping other paraplegic athletes break boundaries too.

Mazyck was serving in the 82nd airborne at Fort Bragg back in 2003, when a parachute jump went terribly wrong and left her paralyzed from the waist down. She was the single mother of a one-year-old child, and her military career had officially ended. “It was really, really scary for me. I wouldn’t even get out of my own vehicle to pump my gas because I was scared of individuals looking at me, staring at me.”

But she wouldn’t let her injury defeat her. Just a year after her the accident, CeCe started training to compete as a paraplegic track and field athlete. Her favorite event is the javelin throw. “When I got in my throwing chair, I thought about everything I have gone through – my injury, raising my son. And I said, you know what Ce-Ce you got this, you can do it.”

After almost a decade of discipline and determination, CeCe made it to the London 2012 Paralympics and 2013 World ParaAthletics Championships in France. She says it wasn’t just about winning a medal – “I got to serve my country again. I wasn’t ready to leave the military. I loved it. I was a lifer. So I said you know what, I’m serving my country again, in a different way.”

CeCe planned to compete in the Rio 2016 Games, but a series of shoulder injuries forced her to retire her javelin. So she focused her energy into mentoring other paraplegic athletes, like Lizzie Becker – a 16-year-old who has her sights set on the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. “I’m really glad I met CeCe. We have a lot in common. It’s given me a lot of confidence. I’ve definitely had a few meets where I was like, ‘ehh I don’t know’. But having here there is definitely very helpful.”

CeCe says no matter what other doors close in her path, she’ll always look for a window. “I believe that God gave me this second chance for a reason. And I’m going to ride it until the wheels fall off.”