A Minnesota teen who is blind is set to compete in his first Ironman Triathlon this weekend, after being paired with a guide who will help him navigate through the course.
Louie McGee, 18, said he hopes his race inspires other visually impaired athletes to lace up and compete.
“I hope they see me and they think, ‘I have this goal, this is going to be hard for me, if he can do it, I can do it,’” McGee, of St. Paul, told Fox 9.
McGee, who has been training for three hours per day before and after school for the Oct. 14 Louisville race, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease when he was 5 years old. It’s the most common form of juvenile macular degeneration, and it decreases a patient’s central vision. According to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the vision loss is not correctable, and there is no treatment to slow the progession.
McGee’s father said that hearing the diagnosis for his child was like getting punched in the stomach. But the teen hasn’t allowed it to prevent him from finding adventure. He started “Louie’s Vision,” which is a foundation that seeks to empower visually impaired kids and teens and help them “expand their life experiences.”
He’s also competed in several sprint triathlons. As a result of his vision loss, McGee said that when he runs, he approaches every step as if he is going to fall.
“I pretty much have to take very step like I’m going to trip,” he told the news outlet. “So I have to be prepared to catch myself.”
McGee’s guide, a 10-time Ironman finisher, will be tethered to him for the 2.4-mile swim and 26.2 mile run, and the pair will hop on a tandem bike for the 112-mile ride.
“We’ve ran so many miles together that my guide knows how to tell me what’s coming up — when to step up at a curb, step down at a curb, or step over a hole,” McGee said.