cassie s. mitchell, ph.d.


Paralympics >> my dream


My Olympic Dream


My Olympic dream started very young.  My first vivid memory of the Olympics was the 1988 Seoul games when I was seven years old.  What I remember most is the athletes’ tearful salute to the American flag while on the medal stand.   My hero was Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a track and field heptathlete who was asthmatic, like myself. Even though I was young, I realized the importance of performing well both for one’s self and for one’s country.  I first pictured myself as an Olympic gymnast since, at that time, I was winning gymnastic competitions at the state level.  However, by 1992, my sport of choice had switched to track.  I have watched with anticipation every Olympics since.


After my paralysis, I thought I had watched my track Olympic dream vanish right along with the collegiate track scholarship I had been awarded.  However, within two years after my paralysis, I began setting my sights on the Paralympics. I played wheelchair basketball for Oklahoma State University, made the All-American team, and shot 45% from the 3-point line and over 90% from the freethrow line.  In fact, I even made alternate for the USA womens wheelchair basketball team in 2005.  However, in the weeks following and before I could ever compete internationally, my Devics relapsed.  With the new severe impairments to my upper body leaving me a quadriplegic, I could no longer play basketball.  Once again, my Olympic hope was dashed.


In 2010, I began paracycling (i.e. handcycling) in order to increase my fitness.  I happened to be pretty good at it.  One of my best friends suggested that I renew my Paralypmic dream and start training seriously for the 2012 Paralypmics.  At first I bulked since I repeatedly had my Olympic/Paralympic dreams dashed by physical crises.  However, it was pressed upon me that, “You should not let fear prevent you from pursuing your lifelong dream.”  And that is so very true.


world_champion_awardLess than one year after re-commiting to my Paralympic dream, I won two Union Cycliste International (UCI) Paracycling World Championships.  Sitting on the medal stand (pictured) with the awarded rainbow jersey, watching the USA flag being raised, and hearing the national anthem was exhilarating and a wonderful honor.  Thinking back to that moment pushes me even harder towards the Paralypmics.


In the fall of 2011, I decided to try wheelchair racing.  I wanted to conquer the ghosts of my able-bodied “track past”.  In one single track meet, I became hooked.  Subsequently, I re-instated my track Olympic dream by adding wheelchair track into my 2012 Paralympic plans.


London2012In an ironic turn of events, I didn't make the London 2012 USA Paracycling team, but I did make the London 2012 USA Track and Field Team. In the London 2012 Paralympics, I placed fourth, just out of the medals, in the 100m, 200m, and discus. I had personal best times in all of my events and an Americas' record in the discus.


Nonetheless, my dream remains to compete in two sports in one Paralypmics, and medal in both. My next chance in Summer 2016 when the Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Crazy?  Impossible?  Well, on my own, it certainly would be both crazy and impossible.  However, with God’s guidance and blessing and with the support of my friends, family, and coaches, I will have “Fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7).