We at Underwater Audio recently had the privilege of talking with 3-time Paralympic medalist, Tucker Dupree! He is an amazing swimmer who was diagnosed with a rare disease, Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) at age 17. Despite his so called setbacks, he continues to thrive in competition and has maintained a positive outlook through it all.
Dupree had competed in swim since he was younger, but after waking up one day without vision in the middle of his left eye, his life started to change dramatically. He went through weeks of testing just to eliminate possible diseases he didn’t have. Finally, after 3 months, he was diagnosed with LHON. One day as Dupree was driving home, his vision was bad enough that he was unable to see the stoplights.
“I drove into the neighborhood, parked my car, pulled the keys out of the ignition, my wallet out of my pocket and my driver’s license out of my wallet. I basically sat in the car for 10 minutes and just said this is it? this is probably the last time I’ll ever get to sit here. up until then I hadn’t really accepted that I could go blind. Giving up my driver’s license was the pinnacle of my acceptance.”
Instead of giving up, Dupree says that he managed to find motivation to push through the limitations thrust upon him. Instrumental in this process was Dupree’s coach, Jeannine Carpenter. She was there during the whole journey, as she coached Dupree even before his diagnosis. One of her favorite sayings was “You have to choose between what’s right and what’s easy”.
Dupree has been in two of the Paralympic games (2008 and 2012), winning a silver in 100m backstroke and a pair of bronze medals for the 50m and 100m freestyle at the London games in 2012. The next Paralympics are in Rio De Janeiro this summer. Watch for Tucker Dupree; his goal is to win 2 gold medals in Brazil! Despite his major success, he still keeps a humble attitude, saying:
“To be able to do a sport at an elite level and represent our county, it’s so much bigger than me… i’m just a small piece of the puzzle.”
Though training and competing takes up a lot of his time, there is more to Dupree than his swimming career. Soon he will finish his degree in Emerging Technology Communications at DeVry University. With all the traveling he does, online classes are no doubt the most convenient! He also enjoys cooking, playing the piano, and practicing yoga. He tells us “You set your own limits”.
Dupree gives back by serving as an assistant coach for Dare2Tri, a Chicago based Paratriathalon club who serves athletes with physical disabilities and impairments. Because participants have such a broad range of disabilities, athletes and coaches must be very creative and open-minded to help their students reach their goals.