Despite growing up in a tumultuous environment that included being the daughter of drug addicts, suffering abuse at the hands of a family member, and surviving a suicide attempt, Centra “Ce-Ce” Mazyck did not let her trauma define her future.
Upon graduating from high school, she set off on her own and enrolled at Bauder College in Atlanta. While enrolled at Bauder, Mazyck enlisted in the Army Reserve to use the educational benefits that military personnel receive.
After earning her associates degree, Mazyck transferred into the Army’s active-duty component and received orders to the 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
Before reporting to Ft. Bragg, Mazyck first needed to attend airborne training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. One of the first things the instructors told the trainees upon arrival was that if they did not want to be there, all they needed to do was say so. That’s just what she did.
Instructor had an unforgettable question for her
“We were in formation and I remember saying ‘I cannot do this.’ I broke ranks and knocked on the airborne instructor’s door,” Mazyck said. “After telling the instructor she did not want to be there, the instructor asked her to look out her office window at the ranks of trainees. She asked, “How many females do you see in that formation?”
“Next thing you know I was jumping out of airplanes,” Mazyck laughed.
When her tour with the 82nd ended, Mazyck received orders to the Army Jump Master School where she was required to earn her Jump Master certification. On the final day of training, tragedy struck.
“I got to the door and jumped,” Mazyck remembered. “A gust of wind hit me like no other time before. All I heard in the midst of all that was ‘Slip away, slip away!’”
“Living life to the fullest…That’s success to me.”
Mazyck collided with another soldier, resulting in their chutes becoming tangled. The two were now plummeting 800 feet with only a single chute catching wind. Roughly 10 feet above the drop zone, the two broke loose but it was too late to adjust her landing.
“Once I hit the ground, I just said, ‘Damn, that was a hard hit.’ I tried to get up but my legs weren’t working,” Mazyck said. The last thing she remembers is writhing in pain in the back of a Humvee and getting her boots cut off at the hospital.
Hard days in rehab but determined
Waking up, Mazyck’s mother told her the doctors didn’t think she would walk again. She immediately got to work, determined to take her life back to be there for her infant son Tristen and prove her doctors wrong.
“I had some hard days in rehab,” she said. “Trying to walk again and vomiting after trying to take two steps, it took a lot out of me. But I was determined.” Despite her grim prognosis, Mazyck was walking on forearm crutches less than four months after the incident.
During her rehabilitation, Mazyck was introduced to wheelchair sports. After her first competition in 2005, she was hooked. “I felt like I was back in the game,” she said. “I felt good, and I had all these individuals surrounding me who made it through and were doing so well. It made me feel like that could be me on the other side.”
Over the next several years, Mazyck found her niche, the javelin, and competed in more and more events. She became highly accomplished, acquiring more than 50 medals, and began receiving invites to some more exclusive competitions.
Javelin skill took her to Paralympic games in London
This led to her catching the attention of the coaches for the Paralympic team. In 2012, at a Paralympic trial event, she had the best throw of her career. She landed a spot on the 2012 Paralympic team.
“I was crying and in disbelief,” Mazyck said. “I believed in myself, but I couldn’t believe I threw it that far and landed a spot on the team in the upcoming Paralympic games in London. It felt like I won a million bucks.”
After her 2012 run, Mazyck stepped away from the wheelchair games due to the Paralympic committee removing the javelin from the 2016 Paralympics and a history of shoulder and rotator cuff injuries.
She recently got back on the Wheelchair Games circuit. In August, she competed in New York where she continued her habit of medaling and won gold in powerlifting and silver in adaptive fitness.
Parabolic flight studies future for disabled astronauts
Known for continually achieving new heights, Mazyck recently participated in a parabolic flight with AstroAccess.
“I’m more accustomed to jumping out of planes, so this was something totally new to me,” she said. “It was an amazing experience. The weightlessness was such a unique sensation.”
Mazyck was one of 12 disabled individuals serving as ambassadors for the disabled community who worked with AstroAccess on the parabolic flight. The overarching goal behind this historic flight is to make space travel achievable for disabled individuals.
“That flight was historic because it was an important first step toward making space travel something that disabled individuals aren’t barred from,” she said. “I cannot wait to go to space.”
Motivating people to push through
Today Mazyck spends most of her time at speaking engagements across the U.S. She inspires and motivates people to push through hard times. Her parents are both drug-free. And her relationship with them has healed to the point of regular conversations with her dad and nearly daily correspondence with her mother.
“Success is very personal,” she remarked. “Your success is not my success. For me, when you have reached a point in your life where you’ve reached your goals or aspirations, everything just flows in your life. You’re happy, you’re loved, you’re living life to the fullest and not just existing. That’s success to me.”
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