Contributor Cooper Kendall – National Fitness Challenge Helps Visually Impaired Athlete Realize True Potential

Submitted and Edited by Lacey Markle from the USABA

On December 25, 2011, I weighed myself and saw the red arrow point towards 240 pounds. I knew that this was an unhealthy weight for a 15 year old and realized I had to do something about it. I could no longer blame my low vision on the fact that I was not physically active (I am considered a B3 – visual acuity above 20/600 and up to visual acuity of 20/200 and/or a visual field of less than 20 degrees and more than 5 degrees in the best eye with the best practical eye correction). I was supposed to be participating in the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge, but I had not even done anything with that yet, which said a lot about me at the time. After weighing nearly 240 pounds I was highly motivated to finally do something about my overweight body and make a change in my life for good. I knew if I set my mind to it, I could win and beat the competition by losing the most weight.

On December 27, 2011, I took action. I went outside in 20 degree weather for a run, a simple 3.2 mile loop, which became my daily activity. I got to the point that without my daily run I felt lost and anxious. I ran every day for two months before ending the streak due to poor weather, but the next day I was back in my routine. I began to feel good about running and started to pick up my mileage to five miles; a long run for me. By this point I was about 200 pounds and I added dieting to my daily exercise. I continued to run for a few more weeks and eventually made one of the best decisions of my life by signing up for a local club rowing team. The week before crew started, I ran 11.6 miles and the feeling of being able to run that far was new to me, it felt remarkable. Once rowing started, I took some time off from running and began training and conditioning for the rowing team. The conditioning started off very hard because I had been burning fat and muscle throughout my running career, and I did not have much muscle to begin with. Circuit training and rowing machine workouts eventually became easier and by the time we got to the boat, I was eager to start learning how to row. Rowing changed my body even more than running–I started to see muscles accumulating and I actually got my weight down to 180 pounds; my lowest yet and it was an awesome feeling!

I had a fire inside me that motivated me to become the best rower I could, and although I was a novice, we had a pretty decent crew team. I rowed through the spring and into the summer with the Blood Street Sculls, learning skills from specialized trainers and coaches. After running and rowing, I finally saw myself as a real athlete because I was fit enough to row 5,000 meters and I was moving up in the boat lineups. This was one of the best feelings ever; I was actually accomplishing what I set out to do. As the rowing season came to an end, I made a promise to myself that winter was no longer an “off” season for me. I set a goal of returning back to the Blood Street Sculls in the spring and to make my school’s varsity rowing team.

I learned that setting goals was the best way for me to live my life. After watching myself accomplish what I set out to do, I am more open to trying new things. I know that even if I do not get it right away, with practice, I will one day succeed. Even though I was a participant in the USABA and WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge and I wanted to win, I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

Losing weight was mainly for me, but because I lost weight I received the benefits of an awesome trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado in June 2012 to attend the National Sports Education Camp, which was a reward for the top boy and girl who lost the most weight and decreased their body mass index. It was really neat to show myself off as an athlete and meet other people who had been applying themselves in various ways throughout the National Fitness Challenge program. I know that without the start of the USABA and WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge I would not have found the motivation to get active and lose weight. Being a part of this program was the best thing that has ever happened to me and truly changed my life for the better. Now, I see a lot of potential in myself and I am truly proud of how far I have come with changing my life.

USABA Contributor Lacey Markle – Results from the 2012 London Paralympic Games

The 2012 London Paralympic Games marked the fourteenth edition of the Games, and was the largest Paralympic Games in history with an estimated 4,200 participating athletes from 165 counties. Team USA finished with 98 medals (31 Gold, 29 Silver and 38 Bronze). Congratulations to all of our 227 athletes for a great Paralympic Games! Here are the results for Team USA athletes who are blind and visually impaired. To look up other results please visit:


JP Creignou and Jen French (Two-Person Keelboat – SKUD 18) raced in ten events and never finished below fifth place. This hard work and determination led them to the Silver medal!


Andrew Johnson and Eleni Englert are a part of The Mixed Coxed Four – LTAMix4+ team that won in repechage, which placed them into the Final A group. At the end of the final race Team USA ended up coming in 6th overall.


USA Women’s Goalball had their share of up’s and down’s in London. The ladies won against Sweden 5-1, lost against Japan 2-1, beat Australia 3-0 and lost against Canada 1-0. After four matches Team USA took on China where they lost 5-0. Although they played hard and tried their absolutely best the USA Women’s Goalball team ended up taking 8th place overall.


Tucker Dupree (S12) took fifth in the 400m Freestyle and fourth in 100m Butterfly. Tucker ended up taking away three medals overall: a Bronze medal in the 100m Freestyle, Silver medal in the 100m Backstroke and Bronze medal in the 50m Freestyle.

Brad Snyder (S11) set a Paralympic Record with a time of 57.18 in the preliminaries for the 100m Freestyle and ended up winning the Gold medal in this event. He also took home a Silver Medal in the 50m Freestyle. In his other events Brad placed eighth in the 100m Backstroke, sixth in the 100m Breaststroke, fourth in the 100m Butterfly and sixth in the 200m Individual Medley. On September 7th, exactly one year to the day when an improvised explosive device went off in Afghanistan and took his vision; Brad swam the 400m Freestyle and won the Gold medal! Click here to watch an interview with Brad on CNN.

Kelley Becherer (S13) won the Gold medal in the 50m Freestyle. In the 100m Freestyle Kelley also won the Gold medal, making that her second gold of the games. In the 200m Individual Medley she took the Bronze medal and won another Bronze medal in the 100m Breaststroke. Kelley won a medal in every event she competed in, what an accomplishment!

Rebecca Anne Meyers (S13) took fourth in the 50m Freestyle. She continued to win the Bronze medal in the 100m Freestyle and in the 200m Individual Medley Rebecca took the Silver medal. Finally, in the 100m Breaststroke Rebecca finished fifth in her heat.

Colleen Young (S13) came in sixth place in her heat for the 50m Freestyle, fifth in her heat for the 100m Freestyle. She also took fifth in the 100m Breaststroke and seventh in the 200m Individuals Medley.

Letticia Martinez (S11) took sixth in her heat in the 100m Backstroke, eighth in the 100m Breaststroke and third in her heat in the 200m Individual Medley.


Ron Hawthorne took seventh in the 60kg weight class
Cindy Simon came in fifth in the 57kg weight class
Cristella Garcia (70kg) and Katie Davis (70+ kg) made it to quarterfinals
Dartanyon Crockett won the Bronze medal in the Men’s 90kg
Myles Porter took the Silver medal in the Men’s 100kg

Road/Track Cycling

In Track Cycling, Clark Rachfal and his pilot Dave Swanson took sixth in the Individual B Pursuit and seventh in the Individual B 1km Time Trial.
Clark and Dave also competed in Road Cycling where the duo finished eighth in the Individual B Time Trial and tenth in the Individual B Road Race.


Markeith Price (T13) took eight in the 400m, sixth in the Long Jump (F13) and fifth in his heat for the 200m.

In the 100m (T12) Josiah Jamison and his guide Jermone Avery placed fourth in their heat. They also finished second in their heat for the 200m, which qualified them for semifinals. During semifinals Josiah and Jermone were disqualified and did not advance to the finals.

Lex Gillette won the silver medal in the Long Jump (F11). He also finished fourth in the Triple Jump with a distance of 12.39m, this was his season best. Lex and his guide Wesley Williams took third in their heat for the 200m (T11). Finally, they ran in the 100m and placed third in their heat.

Tanner Gers took 11th place in the Long Jump (F11).

David Brown and his guide Rolland Slade took second in their heat for the 200m (T11). In the 100m David and Rolland finished second in their heat with a time of 11.37, a personal best, and placed third in their heat in the semifinals.

Hall of Fame

The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) would also like to extend a huge congratulation to Trischa Zorn! The most decorated Paralympian ever and USABA Board Member was inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame in London. She competed as a member of the USA swim team from 1980-2000. In seven Games, she won a staggering 55 medals, including 41 Gold, nine Silver and five Bronze. Trischa held many world records during her career, two of which still stand today, eight years after she last competed! Check out this video from her induction:

Relive your favorite moments from the 2012 London Paralympic Games by checking out for video highlights!

Contributor Lacey Markle – The United States Association of Blind Athletes Impacts Lives through Sports and Recreation

There are an estimated 52,000 school-aged children who are blind and visually impaired in the United States; nearly 70 percent do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum. The barriers that blind and visually impaired youth face are numerous and primarily the consequences of moving their education from residential schools, where physical educators with blindness knowledge deliver specialized services in relatively small classes, to public schools where educators may have less knowledge, time and resources to apply to students who are visually impaired.

The benefits of sports and recreation have been shown to continue from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. A recent survey of United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) members revealed that not only do participants benefit academically from their involvement in sports during elementary and high school, but 57 percent of USABA members continued on to higher education to pursue a college degree  which is more than double the national average of 23 percent for their visually impaired peers. Helping to increase the involvement in physical activity as well as higher education, 18 agencies assisting youth who are blind and visually impaired are working towards a healthier lifestyle with the start of the National Fitness Challenge created by the United States Association of Blind Athletes and funded by the WellPoint Foundation, the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. USABA and the WellPoint Foundation are actively working towards a healthier lifestyle by providing talking pedometers as well as fitness and nutrition coaches for each agency. Each athlete has the opportunity to be the top boy and girl from their agency and participate in the final National Fitness Challenge, a four-day camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado where they will participate in track and field, goalball, swimming and strength and conditioning workouts in order to learn more about fitness and become more involved in their local community. Mark Lucas, executive director of USABA, explained, “Our goal for the National Fitness Challenge is the top 36 teens will go back to their communities and join sports teams. We want to reward the teens for their hard work and dedication towards leading an active and healthy lifestyle. Each participant will be provided skill development that can lead to national and international competions.”

Sports and physical activity is the gift that keeps on giving, the benefits can be reaped throughout childhood and adulthood. As the National Fitness Challenge year comes to a close, USABA and the WellPoint Foundation hope the athletes met their goal of a 50 percent total decrease in body mass index (BMI). Not only will these teens lower their BMI, but through participation in sports and physical activity, these teens will realize new levels of independence, confidence and determination.

For More Information
For more information in becoming involved or for general information contact Lacey Markle at the United States Association of Blind Athletes at (719) 866-3222 or, or go to USABA’s website at

USABA Update – U.S. Women Take Silver, U.S. Men Fall Just Short of Podium

(From Press Release with Permission) 

Just as in the Women’s 2008 Paralympic goalball game for gold, the U.S. Women’s National Team and the China Women’s National Team squared off once again for a rematch during the 2010 IBSA Goalball World Championships.  Both the U.S. and China had remained undefeated throughout the Championships leading into the gold medal match. China still dwelling on the Paralympic gold medal loss two years ago was looking for retribution. The game started at a quick pace with each side trying to remain on the offensive with neither side budging. The U.S. conceded a goal midway through the first half by bouncing the ball off the arm of Lisa Czechowski, who played center, and then it rolled off the shoulder of Asya Miller, playing left wing. 

In the opening seconds of the second half, Czechowski with the first throw found the back of the net scoring for the U.S.  China however recovered quickly and scored their second goal shortly thereafter.  Asya Miller and Jennifer Armbruster, playing the wings, pounded the China defense hoping to find a gap to score but not able to do so.  China scored again midway through the second half which became the final score, China 3 U.S. 1, giving the U.S. Women silver medal and a berth in the 2012 London Paralympic Games. 

The U.S. Men faced off against Iran in the bronze medal game.  These teams faced each other earlier in the competition during pool play.  The U.S. got to work quickly during the match with the first goal.  Iran wasting no time scored the next two goals by the end of the first half which proved to be the difference.  By the end of the game, each team added two more goals each and Iran emerged victorious with a final of Iran 5, U.S. 3. 

For more information, please visit the championship’s official website at  or The Audio Network at