Pam Fontaine has won three gold medals in Paralympic competitions, and she wants more.
Fontaine, a Texas Wesleyan adjunct faculty member, is heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week to compete as part of Team USA in the Paralympic Games.
“Players are coming in from New York and Canada to train,” said Fontaine, who practiced with four other athletes at Wesleyan both last week and this week. “I am going in to compete with 18 other girls, most of which are professional table tennis players.”
On top of her busy schedule teaching two classes at Wesleyan, Fontaine was also a coach for the Lady Mavericks wheelchair basketball team, and still commits to practicing at least 20 hours a week.
Aside from being a Paralympic competitor, Fontaine is maintaining her commitment to her students while she is away, organizing lesson plans and class activities.
“They are still my main priority,” said Fontaine, who has medaled in both table tennis and wheelchair basketball.
Fontaine and fellow Paralympic athletes prepared for the competition in Brazil in the Sid W. Richardson Center from Aug. 26 to Aug. 29.
“Lately I have been working on my technique and improving my weaknesses in preparation for the upcoming competition,” said Fontaine. “I have played against most of my competition over the years at some point, so I know what I am up against.”
Angie Bengtsson, US national coach for para-athletes, appreciated her time working with the athletes at Wesleyan.
“I love the facilities, they are excellent,” Bengtsson said. “These para-players are remarkable, that they are really the athletes that we have. I wished people would watch Paralympic players as much as they watch able-bodied. Able-bodied have their whole bodies, para-players have to figure everything out, what they do is miraculous,” said Bengtsson.
In her four previous Paralympic bids, Fontaine has won a gold, a silver, and a bronze medal. She will compete in the table tennis singles event; she won a silver in the event at the Paralympic Games in 1984.
After that win, she decided to take a break from table tennis to attend Wright State University where she became the first female on the men’s intercollegiate wheelchair basketball team. From there she went on to win a gold medal in 1988 and followed with a bronze in 1996.
Fellow Team USA Paralympic athlete Tahl Leibovitz met Fontaine 10 years ago through table tennis competitions.
“I am looking forward to hanging out with my teammates, being part of Team USA, and competing the best way I can,” Leibovitz said.
Leibovitz is also a five-time Paralympic competitor in the men’s table tennis event; he is looking forward to competing alongside a fellow medalist like Fontaine.
“Pam is amazing in basketball; I wouldn’t mess with her in basketball,” Leibovitz said.
Fontaine and her companions will return from Rio on Sept. 14. NBC and NBC Sports will broadcast the Paralympics from Sept. 7 to Sept. 18; live coverage is at teamusa.org.