The most decorated paralympian ever has aniridia. She and at least two athletes who have aniridia were at the London 2012 Paralympics. There might also have been a runner and a physiotherapist with aniridia too.
Trischa Zorn from the USA has won the most Paralympic medals in the history of the Games, a total of 55 medals including 41 golds. Her career spanned seven Paralympic Games from 1980 to 2004, across a range of events and categories.
Zorn burst onto the scene at Arnhem in 1980 at the age of just 16, winning five gold medals with world record performances. She set seven world records at Barcelona 1992 as she won 10 golds and 2 silvers. She was chosen to take the Athletes’ Oath at the Atlanta 1996 Games.
At the age of 40 Zorn came out of retirement to compete at the 2004 Athens Games, where she won a bronze in the 100m Backstroke S12 class.
At London 2012 she was among five summer athletes inducted in to the Paralympic Hall Of Fame. It aims to recognise retired athletes and coaches who have a track record of excellent athletic performance, history of fair play and participation in community activities.
Zorn has had iris implants in both eyes. The surgery was done as part of the US Food and Drug Administration’s study of the technique. It was performed by the President of the Cornea Research Foundation of America whose board she later joined. Though also now known as Trischa Zorn-Hudson her website is tirchazorn.com.
London 2012 gold medal winner
Mary Fisher is 19 and from New Zealand. At London 2012, her debut Games, she won four medals swimming in most severely visually impaired category. She won the gold and a secured a world record in the 200m Individual Medley. In addition she won silver in the 100m Backstroke and Freestyle events and bronze in the 50m Freestyle.
Amanda Dennis was in the USA Goalball team at London 2012. They reached the quarter finals before losing 5-0 to China . She comes from Peachtree City in Georgia. She also serves as an ambassador of the US Paralympics movement to promote sports to any and all disabled athletes.
Amanda has been awarded the Helen Copeland Scholarship by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). It is given to members who are: blind, a student, an athlete and US citizen.
USABA said “When she is not practicing goalball, Amanda is a great student and hopes to attend the University of Georgia to achieve a degree in political science with a concentration in pre-law; she also plans to go on to obtain a master’s degree in law. Amanda has been legally blind since birth due to a hereditary eye condition called Aniridia. Amanda is a great recipient for this scholarship and we cannot wait to see what she does in the future. We wish her all the best with goalball and academics!”
Justin Karn (aka “The Badger”) is 31 and hails from Canada. At the London 2012 Paralympics he took part in the under 60 kg category but was eliminated from the competition. He started competing when 13 years old .In 2011 he won a bronze medal at the Parapan American Games.
1500 metre runner
Gerrard Gosems from Australia was born in 1970. He competed at Atlanta 1996 in goalball and then in athletics at the Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 Paralympics. Although he ran a personal best at the 2011 IPC World Championships it seems he wasn’t in the final Australian London 2012 team.
Visually impaired runners often run with a sighted guide. Gerrard’s was once Sebastian Coe, recently Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee.
He lives by the philosophy ‘success is a journey, not a destination’, but jokes he has hit many signposts while training”. He has climbed Mount Everest and fallen in to a crevasse because his sherpa forgot to warn him of it.
In 2009 Gerrard took part in the TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and reached the semi-finals.
He got a guide dog at the age of 16 and went on to manage the Vision Australia organisation.
800 metre runner and physiotherapist
Fintan O’Donnell from Republic Of Ireland ran in the 800m at the Athens 1984 Paralympic Games. At several events since, including London 2012 he has been the physiotherapist for the Irish team. He also runs his own clinic in the west of Ireland. Until recently he was the Chair of Irish Blind Sports.
Discus and shot put
Nelson Goncalves from Portugal often ranks in the top 10 for F11/12 discus, javlin and shot put including at London 2012.
Yutaka Kumagai, Japan, 5000m/marathon has aniridia and won the T11 London Marathon 2016, but does not seem to have raced at the Paralympics.
These athletes tried for the USA squad in 2016 but did not go to Rio
- Blake Adams – read Adam’s profile of an article about Adam journey.
- Madeleine Babcock (also described in this article)
- Steven Mulhern
These athletes are described as having iris colomboma, which may or may not technically be aniridia:
- Qi Shun ran a world record time to win the 2008 T13 marathon
- Nadja Baumgartner came 4th in the slalom at the 2010 Winter Paralympics.
Congratulations to all these great people for their endeavours.
We tried, but for various reasons Aniridia Network UK was unable to contact or meet the athletes while in London.
People in their own countries might have more luck.
We are sure that they will inspire you about what is possible with aniridia.