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My Journey as a Visually Impaired Triathlete

by Madeleine Babcock

Madeleine Babcock

I was born with glaucoma and aniridia, two conditions that leave me with no depth perception, only light perception vision out of my right eye and limited vision out of the left. I started to swim competitively when I was 8 years old. Four years ago, I was leaving a swim meet and there was a flyer on the wall for the First New England Kids Triathlon. I asked my dad what a triathlon was and when the race was being held. After I understood what it was and found out it was in six days, I wanted nothing more than to participate.

The race director was awesome and made all the accommodations for me and I have been back every year since. The first year, my mom tried to run next to me, but it turns out I was faster at biking then she was at running. Thanks to a quick-thinking race director and police officer, they chased after me on my bike and guided me. The next year my mom biked next to me and was my guide. This worked better and no one had to chase after me that year. The next year I organized a team of my friends to do the triathlon with me to raise money for the Children's Glaucoma Foundation.

After completing three triathlons, I figured out I could use a tandem bike for the triathlon, which made it easy for me and my guide. No one had to worry about where I was. The past two years I have been riding a tandem with my guide during the triathlon. My guide is one of my good friends. We have been swimming together for the past three years. 

When paratriathlon was added as an event at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, I knew I had to get serious and pick up my training. We are shopping for a proper tandem bike (one that weighs less than the 70 pounds, which is how much the one we use at home weighs) and started to map out my strategy for competition and modify my workouts.

I love to compete and triathlon combines all my favorite activities. I love to swim and can’t imagine not being in a pool or water every day. I love to bike and the fact that I don't have to worry about where I am going is a huge bonus. Running is fun — I ran cross country for my school, and completed my first 10k this year. I am excited! Look for me on the course.

Madeleine Babcock is a 14-year-old triathlete from Belmont, Massachusetts.

Sometimes the best inspiration comes from the triumphs and accomplishments of your fellow athletes. Submit your own story. Email us at communications@usatriathlon.org and include the story and any accompanying photos as attachments. Please include "USAT Kids" in the subject line.

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