Aaron Scheidies, a kinesiology senior at Michigan State University, has macular degeneration, a hereditary disease that causes a gradual decrease in central vision. However, he certainly isn't letting it slow him down.
Not even a year has passed since Scheidies fulfilled a dream to compete in the World Triathlon Championships. Now he is making even more dreams come true with the help of a man named Matt Miller.
Miller is from Hollywood, California and was inspired to put together a triathlon team of blind and visually impaired athletes. He founded the team, C-Different (seen left with their guides), when he met Heidi Musser in 2001 and they completed their first Triathlon together, the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.
Miller began forming the team last summer composed of four visually impaired athletes to compete in the coming year. The team members are Scheidies, Musser, Lindsey Jessup, and Dave Bigoney. Each athlete on the team is legally blind and races with a guide who they can sight off of. The guides swim and run alongside the athletes and ride a tandem bicycle with them to warn them of any obstacles that might be in their path.
The four athletes raced together for the first time on September 14 at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. It was also the first time that some of the athletes had even met each other. Scheidies was pleased with their first race together. One of the females had never even competed in a triathlon and her goal was just to finish the whole thing, which she did. Schiedies finished 25th overall out of 1500 athletes at Nautica Malibu, including beating out two of the eight professionals in the race.
The team will compete in five more triathlons over the next year, including the Wildflower Olympic Distance Triathlon, Escape from Alcatraz, Nautica Malibu again, CAF Half Ironman, and Ironman Hawaii. All of the races will take place in California with the exception of the Ironman in Hawaii.
Scheidies says being able to participate in the Ironman is another dream come true for him. All athletes must either qualify, be chosen by a lottery drawing, or be invited to compete in the triathlon. The C-Different team received an invitation to compete in the Ironman Triathlon on October 17, 2004.
In addition to the opportunity to race in these five major triathlons, Scheidies and the other athletes will be the subject of an extensive documentary. The documentary will feature each of their life stories and will capture their journey to each of the races. The documentary will hopefully be submitted to the Academy Awards in 2005 or 2006. Scheidies says of the documentary, \I hope that this will change people's perspectives on blindness and visual impairment. I hope we can change lives and encourage people to do things they didn't believe they could accomplish."
Scheidies is also actively involved as the President of the MSU Triathlon team and will compete individually at the 2003 World Championships, held on December 6th in New Zealand. In addition to his busy schedule competing in triathlons, Scheidies is a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, was a member of Tower Guard, volunteers with physical therapists in the area, and is a member of the National Society for Collegiate Scholars. He holds a 4.0 GPA, and plans to pursue physical therapy when he graduates next December.
Blindness, Visual Impairment, and Mobility Specialist Virginia Martz believes that Scheidies exhibits an ability that is part of all students with disabilities. "Not only does Aaron exemplify the essence of maximizing ability and opportunity, but he views his disability as secondary to everything in his life. He is first and foremost an accomplished athlete and student who approaches the challenges in life with a twist."
Scheidies is thrilled about the new opportunities that C-Different is providing. "I'm really excited. One of my goals is to inspire others and this is a great opportunity to do that. I want to get the word out that we aren't restricted in what we are able to accomplish."
To learn more about the C-Different team, visit their website at www.cdifferent.com