Last week I had the privilege of photographing the #1 World Paratriathlon Champion, Aaron Scheidies, at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. Aaron was in San Diego as part of his “Road to Rio” training for the 2016 Paralympics
At the age of 9, Aaron was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration which has left him with 10-15% of the vision of a fully sighted person. “Typically I see blobs but to be fully honest, the world I live in is completely uncertain to me,” Aaron explains “I very rarely am confident in what I am looking at and my world is a constant guessing game of past experiences, relating contextual situations and trial and error.”
But blindness hasn’t slowed him down from becoming an elite triathlete and an eight-time Paratriathlon World Champion. Yes, World CHAMPION.
Aaron trains with a sighted guide, Colin Riley. Colin is Aaron’s eyes. In what has to be one of the most selfless relationships, they train side-by-side and Colin endures all of the sweat and hard work that Aaron does. But Aaron is the one who medals. This intimate partnership is the ultimate gift to help Aaron succeed with his goal of making it to the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
Recently Aaron’s “Road to Rio” efforts hit a major road block…
As Aaron describes in his very moving and funny blog, “The triumph and joys of winning gold at the World Championships were all swept away in October.” He was given the shocking news that the International Paralympic Committee announced that the male Visually Impaired category for triathletes would not be included at the 2016 Rio Paralympic games. “Upon hearing this news, my heart was shattered and I was in total disbelief. I was turned upside down and I had no idea what direction to go.”
Refusing to take that has his final answer, Aaron decided to focus on Para Cycling. He reasons that if he can’t compete as a triathlete, he can still focus on cycling.
“My Road to Rio still continues and it is through Para Cycling. 2015 will be a very important year for me in cycling as I will need to prove myself both on a national and international level. I will starting at ground zero and I will be paving my own road that will end in Rio 2016.”
Here are some of the photos I took of Aaron and Colin at the Olympic Training Center.
Being at this Olympic Training facility was such a thrill!! There were all kinds of athletes on site the day I visited – from track and field to female rugby players and various parathletes. I met Aaron’s coach, Mark Sortino. And I was fascinated with a major construction project underway for the BMX team’s training course.
I was in the cafeteria on Taco Tuesday, which was highly anticipated — naturally! When you visit San Diego you have to eat tacos! On all of the tables in the cafeteria is literature providing information about sources of carbs, proteins and other ingredients that fuel an Olympian’s body. And the funniest part (to me, a non-Olympian observer) was inside the stall of the bathroom is a color chart listing the different shades of yellow indicating how your urine color can tell you how hydrated you are. So I chugged some water to ensure I was the proper shade of hydration and re-joined my friend Carie Goldberg, who is Aaron’s agent. Together we followed Aaron and Colin around as they tandem-cycled the incredibly scenic bike track and posed for photos.
To follow Aaron’s Road to Rio journey, stay connected with him via social media and his blog:
USA! USA! Go Aaron! (and Colin)!!!!