Alum Will Be Working on the Sidelines at Paralympic Games in Sochi

Pate with the Paralympic flame in a photo taken at a disability sport conference at Coventry University in Coventry, England, just before the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

Pate with the Paralympic flame at a disability sport conference at Coventry University in Coventry, England, just before the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

UT alumnus Joshua Pate has studied the Paralympic Games for years. This winter, for the first time, he’ll experience them firsthand as a volunteer.

He’ll work as a news reporter for the Paralympics, which will be held March 8 through 15 in Sochi, Russia.

Pate received his bachelor’s degree in sport management in 2002 and his master’s in journalism and electronic media in 2004. He then worked for a year as a writer in the president’s office at Georgia State University and spent four years as an interactive producer for Turner Sports.

Pate, who has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches, has always enjoyed sports. But for many years, he was only a fan.

“As I became aware of adapted sports, I began participating,” he said, adding that he now works out regularly, snow skis and water skis, and rides a hand cycle—a three-wheeled bike that he cranks with his hands instead of his feet.

“But I began asking myself, ‘Why in the world am I thirty years old and just now understanding there are opportunities for me to participate?’ When I decided to go back to school to work on my doctorate, I knew I wanted to study disability sport.”

Pate returned to UT and completed his PhD in sport management in 2012. He’s now an assistant professor in sport and recreation management at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

“A large part of my research has focused on the Paralympic games—the athletes, training, and history,” he said.

The Paralympics evolved from the Stoke Mandeville Games, a sporting event created in 1948 by Ludwig Guttmann, a physician who cared for patients with spinal injuries in the village of Stoke Mandeville, England. Renamed the Paralympics in 1960, the games are always held right after the Olympics in the same city.

This year’s Paralympic Games will include alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey, snowboarding, and wheelchair curling. Many of the events have separate divisions for athletes who must sit, those who can stand, and those who are visually impaired.

Pate applied to work at the Paralympics in Vancouver in 2010 and in London in 2012, but wasn’t accepted. In September, he got the nod for Sochi. He’ll be working as a reporter for the Paralympics News Services, which provides previews, synopsis, quotes, and results from the events.

“Each sport has a group of these individuals on site. I’ll be collecting quotes from athletes in curling,” he said.

The curling events will be held daily from March 8 through 15. It’s the only sport that has a competition every day of the games.

Pate admits he knows little about curling.

“I’ve seen it, obviously. I’m fascinated by it,” he said. “The Paralympic curlers use wheelchairs and, unlike Olympic curling, no one is allowed to sweep. There is a little more technique involved in controlling the stone.”

Since getting his assignment, Pate has been researching the athletes he’ll be covering and watching YouTube videos of wheelchair curling. He’s received training materials from the Paralympic Organizing Committee, including a blog he monitors daily.

He’ll leave for Russia on February 27. He must pay his own airfare but will be provided free lodging and some meals in Sochi.

Half of the trip falls during his spring break at James Madison University. During the other week, he’ll stay in touch with his students online.

Pate said his students are usually very familiar with the Olympics, but only a handful know much about the Paralympics. In past years he’s had his classes watch some of the Paralympic Games online.

“They had never even seen some of these Paralympic sports,” he said, adding that he hopes his students—and others—will learn more about the Paralympics this year.

“This will be the first time NBC has broadcast the Paralympic Games with fifty hours of coverage,” he said.

While excited about the upcoming adventure, Pate is apprehensive. He’s never been to Russia before and he’s unsure how everything will work.

“I’m leaving behind my wife, who is pregnant, and my six-year-old son. It’s kind of nerve-wracking to know I’ll be gone for seventeen days, not knowing what communication will be like,” he said. “But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thirty years from now, I’ll look back and realize what a huge educational moment this is for me personally, for my research, and for my career. “

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu

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