Olympic Day gives 50 visually impaired people the chance to swing a bat and throw people to the mat

Michel CooperLast Update : Sunday 25 June 2017 - 1:42 AM
Olympic Day gives 50 visually impaired people the chance to swing a bat and throw people to the mat

A line of excited people waited to the side. The person at bat swung, hitting the ball, and the group cheered. The next person walked up.

“I’ll trade you a bat for a cane,” the pitcher said. “Are you totally blind or do you need the blindfold?”

The pitcher and catcher gave the batter some directions, telling him to step slightly back from home plate and to turn his body a bit. Then the pitcher wound up — “set, ready, ball” — and threw the pitch, the batter took a big swing.

As the group played beep baseball —  a modified form of baseball for the blind and visually impaired that was led by the Colorado Storm team —  others rode tandem bikes directed by a sighted person, learned Judo moves, tried powerlifting and played goalball — a game with teams of three who try to throw a ball embedded with bells into a net.

For the United States Association of Blind Athlete’s National Fitness Challenge, the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton hosted an Olympic Day, exposing people who are blind or visually impaired to sports played in the Paralympics as well as beep baseball, which is not a Paralympic sport but has many established leagues. The association also handed out FitBits for people to track their activity.

“We definitely want blind people to know that being blind doesn’t have to stop them from being very involved,” the center’s executive director Julie Deden said.

About 50 people participated in Olympic Day. This was the introduction to various sports for probably half of the participants, Deden said. If people have been blind since childhood, they may not have played sports, especially if they went to public schools that didn’t accommodate for students who are visually impaired, she said.

“It does feel very empowering to go out, hit a ball and know that you can do it,” she said.

Participants were able to meet runner Chaz Davis, who competed in the Rio Paralympics, and learn judo from Kevin Brousard, the national title holder for heavyweight judo who is hoping to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics in Toyko. The association also handed out FitBits for people to track their activity.

Jessica Beecham, executive director of WE Fit Wellness, said the day helped promote a healthy lifestyle, which is especially important because people who are blind are twice as likely to be obese compared to the general population. WE Fit Wellness has arranged four races as part of the National Fitness Challenge.

Olympic Day also raises excitement for the Paralympics among the blind community as well as the sighted community, Beecham said. She lamented that Paralympic athletes receive far less attention in the U.S. than other countries, which she said do a better job of advertising Paralympian alongside Olympians.

Downstairs in the center, roughly eight teens stood around Brousard and another judo instructor.

“Can we just start beating up now,” joked 17-year-old Mausam Mehta. She is from Virginia but is part of a summer program at the center.

During a quick demonstration, Brousard threw the other instructor to the mat. A loud noise filled the room as he landed. The crowd released a loud, “ooh.” The teens set aside their canes and got in line to learn the technique.

It was Mehta’s first time trying judo. After a bit of direction, she managed to drop the instructor. She said she really enjoyed the day, both because fitness is a big part of life and it showed what she and others who are visually impaired can do.

“He actually went down,” she said after her first throw. “He’s so much bigger than me. He just went thump!”

Source: denverpost

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2017-06-25 2017-06-25
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Michel Cooper