Here at IB Milwaukee, we hear stories every day about inspiring people who are breaking down barriers and taking the world by storm. Some of our favorite stories include those of individuals who have accomplished athletic feats.
In honor of the upcoming 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, we’ve compiled a list of five of the most well-known visually impaired athletes and their stories.
As a legally blind marathon runner, Marla Runyan has won three national championships in the women’s 5,000 meters. Most notably, she became the first legally blind athlete to participate in the Olympics at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she placed eighth in the 1,500 meter – the highest finish by an American woman at that event.
On May 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, an achievement which was profiled in Time Magazine and covered in his autobiography, Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man’s Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye can See. Erik maintains an active lifestyle as an acrobat skydiver, long distance biker, marathon runner, skier, mountaineer, ice climber and rock climber.
Paralympic Hall of Fame swimmer Trischa Zorn is a U.S. swimmer who has been blind since birth. Most notably, she has won 55 metals (41 gold, 9 silver and 5 bronze), making her the most successful athlete in the history of the Paralympic Games.
Craig MacFarlane lost his vision at age 2 ½ during a welding accident. His athletic instinct kicked in at an early age, and by age eight he had won his first wrestling tournament. Inspired by this achievement, Craig went on to compete in a wide variety of sports and earned a whopping 103 gold medals in wrestling, track and field, swimming, snow skiing, water skiing and golfing.
Growing up, Craig was always active in sports. Upon losing his sight at age sixteen, he turned to sports as a way to regain his confidence and independence. Craig has now participated in seven triathlons and has completed a bicycle trek across Canada.
Other notable blind and visually impaired athletes include climber Steve Bate, goalball player Lisa Banta, Judo gold medalist Anthony Clarke, golfer Zohar Sharon, marathon runner Henry Wanyoike and swimmer Chris Holmes, to name just a few.
As the ever-inspiring Robert Hensel once said, “I choose not to place a ‘dis’ in my ability.” As an organization that employs dozens of blind and visually impaired individuals, we find that this type of positive attitude isn’t just held by those in the spotlight – rather, it’s one that we witness each and every day among our colleagues here at IB Milwaukee.v