This Changed My Life

 

I grew up, and thrived, in the sighted world.  At age six I was required, although it felt being banished, to attend Ontario School for the Blind, 500 miles from home.  At age eight, I won my first gold medal in tournament against sighted opposition. At that moment, my eight-year-old mind became convinced that if I kept winning against sighted opposition, I could prove I deserved to go home and live with my family and friends in the sighted world.  After that, nothing could stop me, because it wasn’t about the medals, it was all about going home.  Here are some of the pictures from those early days of my pursuit.

I didn’t limit myself to wrestling.  The desire to go home drove me to succeed in every sport that would help me justify case to return to the sighted world and live with my family and friends.  Here are a few pictures of the other sports I competed in successfully in school.

My parents and my coaches taught me that achieving any worthwhile goal would take hard work, so I determined I’d work harder than anybody else.

I did finally succeed and I started high school in my home town of Desbarats, Ontario

By the time I was graduating, I realized I would need new pursuits to satisfy my competitive nature. I began searching for new athletic adventures, and I found some.  Have a look.

 

Downhill Snow Skiing

 

Yes, that’s right.  My next adventure in my competitive experiences was to strap slippery sleds to the bottom of my feet and hurdle myself into the abyss of a mountain ski slope, in total darkness.  I knew other blind people skied so I was confident I could do it. I was curious to see how good I could get, which in my mind would become a competition with myself, and of course the mountain.

 

As it turned out, it wasn’t long before I was training to compete in the U.S. Blind National Downhill Snow Skiing Championship.  Here are pictures from that journey.

When I won the Gold Medal at 1983 U.S. Blind National Downhill Snow Skiing Championship, they told me I was clocked going more than 50 miles per hour.

Water Skiing

 

I was intrigued to see if my snow skiing abilities transferred to the water as well, so when I was offered the opportunity to become spokesperson for the U.S. Blind National Water-Skiing Championships, I decided to compete as well.  Take a look.

I won the 1983 U.S. Blind National Water-Skiing Championship, but that wasn’t the biggest thing I accomplished that day.

I became the world’s first, and I believe still the only, totally blind Professional athlete when I was offered a contract to perform as a member of the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Jumping Show Team.

I can’t think of anything I’ve done that is more exhilarating than launching a water ski jump into total darkness,  except possibly landing it.

I continued water skiing and returned to win the 1984 U.S. Blind National Water-Skiing Championship and went on to Oslo, Norway where I also won the 1984 World Blind Water-Skiing Championship.

I have continued to enjoy water-skiing and still get out on the water on occasion.

And even barefooting once in a while

Golf

 

Today, my athletic pursuits do tend to be more laid back and easy going.  Golf has been a particularly enjoyable challenge and pastime.

I was so proud when I lifted this shot out of the bunker and landed it on the green but I really have to give credit to my friend Tony Day, PGA Teaching Professional at the Golf Club of Indiana, who helped my get lined up.  Sometimes you need some help.

Olympic Torch Relay 

 

The most memorable and thrilling single athletic experience of my life had to be when President Ronald Reagan invited me to carry the Olympic Torch, along side hockey legend Gordie Howe, as part of the torch’s journey to the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

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