When a tragedy happens, it’s easy to sink into yourself and become a shell of who you once were. When Curtis Lovejoy experienced a life-altering event, he decided to do the opposite. He embraced it, adapted to it, and thrived beyond his wildest dreams.
The youngest son of 11 children was born and raised right here in Atlanta. On his way home from work on the morning of November 11, 1986, a car merged into his lane and cut him off, causing him to careen off the road and plow into a tree. He couldn’t move or feel any of his limbs while his life flashed before his eyes. The paramedics who ultimately saved his life initially thought he wouldn’t make it.
Lovejoy was paralyzed from the neck down and told that he would never walk again. Fortunately for him, the doctors said nothing about swimming.
“I was terrified of water, but it was a part of my rehab. During my 12 sessions, I learned how to relax and not be afraid. The water became my sanctuary,” Lovejoy explains. After completing rehabilitation, he met Coach Tommy Jackson of the City of Atlanta Dolphins Swim Team and the two devised a plan that fueled Lovejoy’s newfound passion.
Within two years, Lovejoy was in the pool daily, perfecting his technique and becoming one with the water. He continued to practice, working on his qualifying time for domestic swim meets in hopes of qualifying for international meets. By 1995, he set his first world record at the International Paralympics Swim Trials in the 50m Breaststroke and 50m Freestyle.
He was also invited to become a fencer due to his long arms, despite the paralysis in his hands. In 1997, he became the #1 Paralympic fencer in the world.
With over 30 years of swimming under his belt, Lovejoy is planning to dry himself off and step away from the pool following the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. With the current Coronavirus pandemic plaguing the world, the medaled swimmer has been forced to refrain from training as well as postpone the trip until 2021, when the games are scheduled to resume.
His wife of 12 years will be by his side during this break and hopes to travel to Tokyo with her husband when the time comes.
“Marie is the backbone of the family and takes good care of me,” Lovejoy says. He also has a daughter and grandson who support him. One of his greatest joys is knowing how proud his siblings are of him. “They initially didn’t realize how big a deal my swimming and fencing were, but they do now,” laughs the baby of the family.
In September 2019, Lovejoy was presented with the R.I.C.E Award (Rising in Community Excellence), a lifetime achievement award. He continues to celebrate and promote his book, Just A Little Love & Joy, and looks forward to retirement after his 6th Paralympic Games next year. His future goal is to travel the world doing public speaking and advocating against human trafficking.
He knows his story is unusual but professes that anything is possible with Jesus Christ.