Photo: Not letting visual impairment (inability to see things directly in front of her for several feet, being color blind and light sensitive) stop her, Abby Bearden takes aim during the Sports Extravaganza archer event. /Photo by John Starkey
Over two hundred children with visual impairments from Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma competed in the 17th annual Sports Extravaganza, hosted by the Region 10 Educational Service Center at Nimitz High School, Oct. 16 – 17.
The Sports Extravaganza allows children and young adults (ages 0 to 22) with visual impairments to participate in a number of competitive and non-competitive sports such as track and field, beep baseball, and shot put. Special provisions were made for each event, such as tethering the athletes to a volunteer who acted as a guide during races.
“There aren’t a lot of chances for people with visual impairments to compete in events,” Region 10 Deaf Blind Consultant Hillary Keys said. “There’s one event in West Texas, and then us. Those are the only two events [in Region 10].
“One little girl from last year told me, ‘I see all my friends at school, they go to track meets and athletic events. There’s nothing for me at my school. This is the only place where I get a level playing field to compete against people just like my classmates.’ The experience kids get to have here is amazing because it doesn’t exist elsewhere,” Keys said.
One of the competitions hosted during the event was a goalball tournament. Goalball is a sport designed specifically to be played by people with visual impairments. The objective is to get a ball with bells attached to it past the opponents’ goal line without going out of bounds. Players need to listen for the ball in order to stop it. The game is much faster paced at advanced levels.
The events were split into competitive and non-competitive fields. Players were grouped based on gender, age, and level of visual impairment. An awards ceremony was held for each of the competitive events.
“I love seeing the kids at this event,” 2-X1 1st Vice District Governor of Royse City Lions Club Kathleen Tyre said. “It’s very brave of them to do these things. Sometimes the older kids will outrun their guides and have to run towards the shouts coming from the finish line. I love seeing the kids smiling and happy. It’s quite an achievement for them.”
“It feels really good,” young athlete Adhy Singh said after winning the 100-meter dash. “I feel like a hero. Before coming, I exercised on a treadmill for about twenty minutes a day. I exercised my legs very well. This is my first time competing, and it’s my goal to reach first place in all of my events. I want to make my parents proud.”