LONDON – Many U.S. Paralympic athletes have persevered through tough circumstances and refused to give up after acquiring a disability.
Former Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steven Peace is no exception. He continues to beat the odds after a stroke left him without the use of the right side of his body.
Following his 24-kilometer cycling road race at the Brands Hatch track venue Sept. 8, where he placed fifth out of 19 competitors, Peace shared his story of personal triumph.
“Five years ago, I had a stroke,” Peace said. “My right side was paralyzed, and I had to do something to keep in shape, being in the military.”
Peace was 24 years old when he suffered the debilitating stroke at his San Diego home. He was not discovered for 14 hours, and as a result, he experienced loss of strength in his right arm and leg.
“I spent 16 years in the military,” he said. “I had planned on making it my career. And then the stroke [happened]. They kept me as long as they could – two more years.”
After he left the Navy, Peace picked up cycling after learning about the sport during rehabilitation at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. The former lieutenant commander learned of Operation Rebound, a program designed for injured veterans, and took up the sport.
The U.S. Naval Academy graduate spent five years in Japan during his 16-year Navy career, which also took him to San Diego; Norfolk, Va.; Annapolis, Md.; and Monterey, Calif.
The Navy veteran said he faced many challenges as he committed to cycling.
“I had some difficulty with my bike,” Peace said. “[Since] my right side is not used, I had to find a way to shift all of the controls.”
Because he doesn't have the use of his right side, the cyclist added, he has to ride off-balance.
“Two years ago, I wouldn't have been able to ride this course,” he said. “But I slowly built up to it. I put on different things on my bike, and I pretty much said I could ride it.”
Peace offered his advice to other wounded warriors and veterans who may find themselves doubting their abilities because of illness or injury.
“Don't ever give up,” he said. “You never know how good you are until you get out there and you try to do it.”
Peace described his time at the 2012 Paralympic Games as an “unbelievable” experience.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to represent my country like this,” Peace said. “It's great, and I love the USA.”