Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Three Blind Athletes to Follow in This Year’s Paralympic Games

Now that all of you are aware that watching the Paralympic games will be possible, it’s time to learn a little bit about some of the athletes. While it’s not possible to talk about everyone competing, there are three athletes I would recommend paying close attention to in the coming weeks. Jordan Mouton will be competing in women’s judo, Brad Snyder is a current member of the military who is competing in seven swimming events, and Clark Rachfal will be competing in tandem cycling.

There are three events in the Paralympics that are exclusively for people with visual impairments. Judo is one of these. It is also the only martial art in the games. Judo is a great sport for blind athletes because you are always in physical contact with your sparring partner. According to the official Paralympics website, “Two athletes (judokas) gain points for throws, holds, arm locks, and strangles in a bid to beat their opponent. A contest lasts for five minutes, with the athlete who has the highest score at the end of the contest the winner.” For Jordan Mouton, judo was her way of overcoming her blindness. She started losing her vision at the age of 12 from cone/rod dystrophy. After having to give up soccer, Jordan was very excited to learn about judo. She was a competitor in the 2008 Paralympics and she’s happy to be competing again.

Those of us who have degenerative eye diseases have lots of time to cope with our blindness, but this wasn’t the case for Brad Snyder. Like a number of his fellow servicemen and women, Brad lost is vision after being hit by an IED in Afghanistan. He was a swimmer before he lost his vision, and he’s proud to be able to continue in the sport even without sight. Swimming for blind athletes is not much different than it is for sighted athletes. Blind athletes have a tapper who lets them know that they are approaching the wall, but other than that, they compete just the same. Snyder currently holds the record for the 400 meter freestyle among fully blind athletes and he hopes to break that record at the games.

There is a kind of freedom that only riding a bicycle can give you. Even though blind cyclists need someone to be their driver, cycling is a sport that can be rewarding to those who can’t see. The Paralympics introduced tandem cycling in 1984 for blind athletes, and thanks to technology, there are now cycling events for people with a wide variety of disabilities. Clark Wrathful started his tandem career with his sighted pilot back in 2007. Since then, they’ve earned the title of world champions in 2009 and overall UCI World Cup Winners last year. They are both excited to be representing the US and hope to bring home gold.

I hope everyone enjoys the games. Which events are you looking forward to following?

To learn more about Jordan’s story, visit this link: http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/08/13/blind-judo

To learn more about Brad’s story, visit this link: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/18/12280112-london-bound-blinded-warrior-to-represent-us-at-2012-paralympics?lite

To learn about Clark’s story, visit this link: http://responsibility.verizon.com/news/Clark-rachfal-heads-to-London-for-the-2012-paralympic-games

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