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Local athletes looking to make a splash in Tokyo Paralympic Games

Swimmers competing in Tokyo Paralympics won't let their physical limitations keep them from vying for a gold medal

TOKYO, Japan — The Tokyo Paralympics begin next Tuesday, but some of our local athletes have already made the trip to Japan and are busy gearing up to compete in these Summer Games. 

 “Just because you have a disability does not mean you can’t do anything,” says Joey Peppersack.

Joey Peppersack grew up just outside Richmond, in Hopewell, Virginia. Born with a condition that caused him to lose his right leg, he began swimming in 2008. That's the same summer Michael Phelps took home eight gold medals at the Beijing Summer Games, and now Peppersack hopes to win a medal of his own, at the Paralympic games.

For Peppersack, soaking in the experience, and relishing in the competition is front and center, but winning a medal is always in the back of his mind.

“That would be incredible, I haven’t even thought about it, but I mean it’s a goal for sure. If I bring home a medal, I will never stop talking about it, that’s for sure,” said Peppersack.

Peppersack is traveling to Tokyo with his college swim coaches from the University of Mary Washington. Justin Anderson, a native of Herndon, Virginia, is the head coach at UMW, and an assistant for the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team. Zach Shattuck, a Mount Airy, Maryland native, is an assistant coach at UMW, but for the next few weeks, he’s Peppersack's Paralympic teammate!

“When I got the job at the University of Mary Washington, I met Joey, and I got to work with him and see how awesome he is. I see how hard he works and that really inspired me to keep going ... and push myself. We both fed off each other,” said Zach Shattuck.

Now in the Paralympic Games, Zach who was born with a type of short-limbed dwarfism, is preparing to swim in six events!

“I’ll be swimming the 100 breast-stroke, the 200 individual medley, the 50 butterfly, and the 400 freestyle (swims). Then I’ll probably swim two relays too,” said Shattuck.

“This is definitely what I love most about coaching, is getting to see years of hard work pay off and getting to be a small part of that. I love guiding them on their journey to reach those goals. For Zach, I’ve been involved in his swimming and training for the last eight years, so it’s been a long road. For Joey, it’s been the last three years, and it’s just so special to see them hit that goal that I’ve known they’ve had forever,” said coach Justin Anderson.

Years of hard work will be put to the test, beginning Tuesday, August 24, in Tokyo.

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