'It doesn't feel real': Hopewell swimmer prepares for Paralympics

'It doesn't feel real': Hopewell swimmer prepares for Paralympics
Posted at 12:01 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 00:01:53-04

HOPEWELL, Va. -- The Olympic action in Tokyo doesn't end when these particular games are over. Later in August, the Paralympic Games will be held in Japan's capital city as well.

Just as Townley Haas is making Richmond proud during these games, Hopewell's Joey Peppersack will do the same next month.

Peppersack has been working towards this goal for the past two years.

"It's a huge relief. It's nice to know that all the time that I've put into the water, I'm reaping the benefits of it right now. It still doesn't feel real that I'm going, it still hasn't really hit me, but I'm sure as soon as I get on the plane to Japan, I'll definitely feel it," Peppersack said. "But my phone started to blow up, I got support from everywhere, it was incredible. There were definitely times where I thought that Tokyo maybe wasn't the games that I was going to end up going to. The delay that COVID brought upon the entire world for an entire year, actually gave me a little extra time to get some training in, and I definitely feel a lot stronger with that extra year of training.

Peppersack said that he has faith that the regulations put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be sufficient to allow the events to go on.

"It's a little bit of a concern but I have faith in all of the rules and regulations put in place that there shouldn't be an outbreak at all," Peppersack said. "Since we're at altitude, I've noticed that once we go to places that are a little bit closer to sea level, like when we went to trials in Minneapolis a few months ago, you take a deep breath and just kind of feel like a superhero because out here it's like breathing through a straw. It does not feel real at all and I don't think it will hit me until I walk into the opening ceremony stadium. It's been something that I've been working on since I was 9 years old.

Joey leaves for Yokota Air Base just outside Tokyo on August 14 for a mini-training camp before the Paralympics begin.

He will swim both his qualifying heat and the final on the same day, scheduled for August 27.

In his 100 meter backstroke, he believes that he needs to pick up another two seconds of time to have a good shot at a medal, but he has a few more weeks to make it happen.