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Sailor to Compete in Three Events at Athens Paralympics

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2004 – Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Casey Tibbs is heading to Athens next week, looking for gold in the 400-meter, 4x400-meter relay and the pentathlon track and field events.

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Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Casey Tibbs, 24, will compete in the 400-meter dash, the 4x400-meter relay and the pentathlon Paralympic events in Athens, Greece, in September. He is ranked No. 2 in the world in the 400- meter events. Tibbs is the first active duty Paralympian. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class James Pinskey

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If you're thinking he's missed the starter's gun, think again. Tibbs, 24, confirmed that he is the first active duty servicemember to compete in the Paralympics that will run Sept. 17-28.

A 110- and 300-meter hurdler at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, Tibbs graduated in 1999 and entered the Navy about a month later. He also quit running competitively.

"I thought I was done (running)," Tibbs said.

A motorcycle accident on March 5, 2001, and the events that followed changed his mind. Tibbs lost his right leg below the knee in that accident. Because of the investment in his training, the Navy gave him an option of separating or staying in. He chose to stay.

About a year after being back on active duty, he read an article about Paralympians and was inspired. Tibbs decided he would compete in the next Paralympics.

He said his first track meet went so well that the Paralympic coaches called him and invited him to a national meet. He said he is currently ranked No. 2 in the world in the 400-meter. He qualified for the 2004 games with a pentathlon score of 4,573 during the 2004 Far West Games held at San Jose City College in California.

Rankings for the pentathlon (long-jump, shot put, discuss, 100- and 400-meter events) haven't been released yet, but he said he feels competitive in the event. He will be among about 4,000 athletes from 130 countries to compete.

Tibbs has spent the past week in Oklahoma City, Okla., getting a new prosthesis. He said he's been training on his new leg for the past week and has no anxiety about running on it in his events.

"The thing about the Paralympics is, you can be a great athlete and a good runner, but you're only going to run as good as your prosthesis is going to allow you to run," Tibbs said.

Tibbs said he's just ready to get to Greece and start running.

"I'm really excited. It's been a lot of work," Tibbs said. "Training for it is no fun at all. It's not a fun sport to train for. But it's all worth it once it's over and you get a medal."

If everything goes well in Athens, Tibbs said he'd like to compete in the 2008 Paralympics to be held in Beijing.

"From everything, it looks like the Navy supports me 100 percent," he said, adding that the Navy Sports Department, headed by John Hickok, has arranged for transportation to meets and provided uniforms. Tibbs said that Hickok also worked with Adidas to secure sponsorship for him. He said his command has been very supportive, as well.

The meaning of being the first active duty Paralympian is not lost on Tibbs, who is stationed at Naval Security Group Activity Medina in San Antonio, Texas.

Tibbs said he never would have expected when he lost his leg that his life wouldn't change drastically. "When you lose your leg, people kind of first assume that 'My life is totally different now. I've got to live differently,'" Tibbs said. "There are little changes, but really for the most part, nothing's really changed for me. Everything has changed for the better for me.

"I wouldn't ever have dreamed of going to the Paralympics ever," he said. "And now, (I'm about) to go to Greece to compete against everybody else, which is a amazing."

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Related Sites:
2004 Paralympic Games
Navy Sports Program

Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Petty Officer 2nd Class Casey Tibbs, 24, is headed to Athens, Greece, to compete in the 2004 Paralympics. He'll be competing in the 400-meter dash, the 4x400-meter relay and the pentathlon, which includes the shot put, discuss, long jump and the 100- and 400-meter dashes. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class James Pinskey  
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