What happened to the blind triathlete?

I wrote a post here last month after the director of NYC Swim’s Brooklyn Bridge Swim decided that athletes with disabilities would have to pay an extra fee to swim in the race. My friend Eliza is a strong swimmer (she’s completed six triathlons) but she happens to be blind. The extra requirement for the swim across the East River was unfair to Eliza (and I agree!), so Eliza didn’t participate.That's Eliza on the right with Megan Leigh, one of her guides. (That’s Eliza on the right with one of her guides Megan Leigh.)

Eliza was disappointed, but she knew this was an opportunity to get word out by talking to the media about the struggles athletes with disabilities sometimes face when trying to compete. “We didn’t get to swim,” she said. “But getting the word out there made me feel a lot better about what happened.” She was glad the stories in the media drew attention to the issue, and pleased they generated conversation and support. “And you know what?” she told me with a shrug. “There are always bigger and better races to be raced!”

Sure enough, last Sunday, August 24, Achilles International volunteer Julie Bennett guided Eliza in a Half Ironman Triathlon in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Eliza swam 1.2 miles in the ocean, rode a tandem for 56 miles and ran 13.1 miles. They finished at 6:03, one entire hour faster than what they were hoping for. Not bad for a young woman who only started racing in triathlons two seasons ago, eh? Her guide Julie says that after Sunday’s unqualified success, Eliza has “blossomed into one of our most dedicated and inspirational athletes.” I’ll say. Go, Eliza, go!


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