What would you say if your child were legally blind and wanted to do gymnastics?
That is what the parents of Lola Walters had to decide. Lola is a USA Gymnastics Level 6 gymnast which means that she does handspring vaults, jumps to the high bar and “fly aways” on bars, back walkovers and leaps on beam and she is legally blind. She has a condition called nystagmus that limits her vision, causes her eyes to flutter, allows no depth perception, and often causes double vision.
Usually athletes can see what is in front of them… whether it is a vault or a bar or an opponent. In Lola’s case, she has not idea what is in front of her until she is about five feet away from it because she is legally blind. You can see this blind gymnast in action on Youtube.
Lola’s mom said, “She can see. It’s just that what is in front of her constantly moves and she can not judge distances or focus.”
Lola’s coach is quoted as saying, “She works twice as hard as everybody else and I’ve seen her fall harder than anybody, and she’ll get up and go again, every single time.”
This amazing young woman sees her disability in a very different way from the way most of us would see it. She said, “Most people I compete with don’t know I am any different from them, and as far as I’m concerned it can stay that way. If they don’t know, they don’t need to score me differently.”
Lola has been a gymnast since she was three years old. It wasn’t until after Lola was enrolled in gymnastics that her mother understood just how
bad her vision was. By that time, she was already a good gymnast.
“I don’t know what it would be like to do gymnastics with perfect vision,” “so really, I don’t see a difference.”Had her mother held her back in fear of her getting hurt, Lola would not be where she is today. We already know about out Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas. Gabby met Lola and said, “This is such an amazing moment for me. I am star struck. Lola, you are truly incredible. This truly shows what a mind can do. If you love something and have a passion for something, you won’t let anything stop you. You are amazing.”
So parents, back to my original question, Where do we draw the line between keeping them safe and allowing them to blossom?
Lola Walters is our newest hero.