I’m Katie Davis from Sacramento California. I was born with aniridia and nystagmus, inherited from my mom. My vision is around 20/600 or worse.
I use my phone for a lot of things and do use a cane to keep me from tripping or running into things.
I compete in judo. Judo means “gentle way”, it’s similar to wrestling I have tried several different sports: gymnastics, bowling, basketball, and running. What I really love about judo is there really isn’t any need for adaptation, our training partner or in competition our competitors grip up so we have contact and for competition we are guided out to the proper starting point on the mat and during competition refs announce when we’re near the edge but the actual judo requires no adaptation, we can practice or compete against sighted individuals as easily as blind individuals.
My biggest struggle with training as a blind athlete is transportation, getting to practice and home from practice. Ride shares such as Uber and Lyft are expensive and have become less reliable. I often use Paratransit service, there are advantages such as price and they’re specifically hired to transport people with disabilities BUT often the buses are late and the share rides are not always logical. Sometimes transit can take longer then the practices themselves.
I feel making it to Tokyo is my biggest accomplishment, I also competed in London in 2012 but my life outside of sport was much more simplistic back then. Now I am a single mom to 2 little boys and self employed, so the fact that I was able to train and make it this far is a big deal for me. As a judo athlete getting to practice at the Kodokan, the place where judo began is by far a judo athlete’s dream! We are in the country where judo all started and that alone makes competing at the Tokyo games an amazing thing.
In general whether you’re visually impaired or not, being an athlete takes a lot! It is physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times but the end goal is amazing. Winning a match or getting a gold medal or making it to the Olympics/Paralympics is by far the most amazing feeling you will ever have. The experience is very much like nothing else.
As visually impaired athletes often you need to be able to advocate for yourself. You cannot learn a sport without fully understanding and completing training. If you’re unsure you always have to speak up because often there are not many blind athletes so you train with sighted athletes and have to be able to speak up when you need help.
Update: Sad to say Katie lost her first match and then a repechage match too. Best wishes for the future Katie!