RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A dream is coming true for a pair of local athletes.

Joey Peppersack, who grew up in Hopewell and just finished his swimming career at the University of Mary Washington, and Zach Shattuck, who coaches at UMW, both have qualified to compete for Team USA in the Paralympics in Tokyo.

“We’ve both been training for this for a long, long time,” Peppersack said. “I’ve been going since I was 9. This means pretty much everything.

Both athletes found ways to train during the pandemic, with Peppersack joining a local YMCA and Shattuck swimming in a river for a few months.

“It’s all about adaptability,” Shattuck said. “I think that’s something that a para is pretty good at, figuring out ways to find the best way to compete.”

Peppersack will compete in the 100-meter back, while Shattuck is in the 50-meter fly, 100-meter breast, 200-meter IM and 400-meter free.

“Dropping a second (in my time) would probably put me about top three,” Peppersack said. “Staying with the time that I have would put me in the top ten. It’s a super-competitive event.”

“My main goal is to try to final in all of those events with the focus on 100 breast and 200 IM,” Shattuck said. those are my highest-ranked events and, yeah, I mean, come, come Tokyo, it’s anybody’s race. You get to a final and everything can happen.”

It’s an incredibly rare and special opportunity.

“To be able to call yourself a Paralympian at the end of the day and to get to represent the flag and just go and compete at the highest level is a complete honor,” Shattuck said.