Two-time gold medalist Casey Tibbs ran and won his first race in the sixth grade. From that point on, Tibbs poured himself into competition.
"I just loved sports. Sports have always been a part of my life. Whether it's a game of horse in the driveway, or who can throw the baseball the farthest. Sports have always been that safe place for me," says Tibbs.
But, on March 5, 2001, Tibbs' world drastically changed. Tibbs lost his right leg, just below the knee, as a result of a motorcycle accident. He recalls that night: "Right when I lost my leg I wasn't unconscious. I remember thinking, 'I want to get knocked out. I want this to be over.' I thought my life was over and I was going to be in a wheelchair the rest of my life."
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However, with the support of his family, especially his grandfather, he decided to live his life. "I read about the Sydney Paralympics and was amazed at what theses athletes could do. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I remember thinking, 'I'm going to do whatever it takes to get on this team. I'm going to do whatever it takes to go to Athens.' And from that day, I lived the professional lifestyle of an athlete," says Tibbs.
And in 2004, Tibbs made history by becoming the first American active-duty military member to compete in the Paralympic Games. Tibbs took home the gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay and a silver medal in the pentathlon. In 2008, he won another gold in the men's 4x100-meter relay and bronze in the long jump.
From the hospital bed to the track, Tibbs shares how he pushed himself to become a gold medalist in the Paralympic Games.
What was your motivation to get back into the sports world?
'Never quit chasing the rabbit' is a quote my grandfather always says. My grandfather is a successful man, always did everything right—it may have been the hard way, but it was the right way. He's from West Texas, and there are three things [there]: tumbleweed, jack rabbits and coyotes. He would always tell me how coyotes would try to get the jack rabbits to survive. It was the only thing they could live off of. Now, jack rabbits are extremely fast, so the coyotes had to plan strategically to survive. They never gave up. This story has always helped me get through tough times. And when I was going through this life-changing experience I kept reminding myself, 'Never quit chasing the rabbit.'
How did your journey to the Paralympics begin?
After I decided I wanted to run, I took what knowledge I knew about running, and just went out and ran. I would jog for a mile and do some sprints. The first couple of months were hard. I had a hard time keeping my prosthetic leg on while I was sprinting. It was a challenge just learning how to keep it on and aligned right. But, I eventually learned about different vacuum systems and sleeves.
After the process of learning how to run with a prosthetic leg, which was only about a month, I entered the Endeavor Games. I ran and won the 100m, 200m and 400m. I never looked back after the Endeavor Games.