National Blind Sports Day

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By Jovanni Lezama

Visually impaired students in the Bronx celebrated National Blind Sports Day with tandem cycling, a boot camp training and a motivational talk from triathlete Alison Lynch.

The middle and high schoolers celebrated the day at the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx (NYSE), which provides a variety of services for more than 300 students blind and visually impaired students.

“Blind or visually impaired students do things they thought they couldn’t do,” said physical education teacher Karina Cam, who coached them on body weight exercises. “My biggest challenge is finding ways to adapt things. I want an even level playing field for all my students.”

Cam had the students doing long jumps, plank jacks, inchworm, mountain climb twist, butt kickstand and high knees. Some struggled but were determined to finish the challenges. Many tried to motivate each other to push through.

Faculty members rode tandem bikes with students on the playground. Before riding, many of the students were given a brief talk about using protective gear. As they were trying on their helmets, some hurried to be first in line to go on the bike ride. Faculty biked at a steady pace around the school playground, but many of the students urged them to pedal faster. Cheering one another as they got on, some students jokingly did not hold on to the handles while peddling, making everyone giggle.

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Alison Lynch, 31, a visually impaired triathlete who completed her first marathon in New York City this past year, talked to the students about her challenges while running a marathon.

A triathlon is a multi-sport race that includes swimming, cycling and running, she explained, saying she had been inspired by others who competed in the event. “There are so many incredible women that are in the triathlon,” she said. “I also met so many incredible people that run into the water with no fear, so gracefully and successfully. That’s what I think of when I work out.”

Lynch explained the type of workout she had to do to keep her body and mind in shape. “My training is different, focusing on speed, turning my legs really fast, they call it brick training,” she said. “I do as much as I can to get ready. It makes me go back next year to quest for more improvements, more competitions which keep me going.”

Lynch came in third place overall in the Paratriathlon female category in the New York City Triathlon. “I cut my swim by almost half, getting out of the water in under 20 minutes easily,” she said. “You learn something every race, this taught me that I hadn’t had enough to eat or drink, which makes six miles through Central Park hills in 87 degrees a bit more challenging than usual.” 

Lynch plans to run again in December and wants to compete in the Iron Man race next year. She also said she hopes qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2019. “I’m so lucky having parents that help me and my younger brother with visual impairment,” she said. “They taught us how to advocate for ourselves.”

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