In August I was laying on a couch in Tiburon reading the last of the Harry Potter novels when I received an email boasting the subject, â€œLove Mailâ€ from a name I didnâ€™t recognize, asking if I could â€œguide him through a triathlonâ€.. It was Aaron Scheidies, and a quick google search told me he was the fastest visually impaired athlete in the world. Not much can get me get off the couch when Iâ€™m rooting against Voldemort, but Aaron wanted to know if I could help him with something epic: He wanted to not only break the Physically Challenged World Record for Olympic Distance Triathlon, but he wanted to smash the record. His goal was to break the two hour barrier, and to do it he needed someone to be there with him the whole way.
Aaron asked me because I am from the Northwest, and he saw my name on the results from USAT Nationals. Weâ€™re both currently attending the University of Washington, and it was because of this geographic coincidence that I was given the opportunity to accompany Aaron on his mission.
Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity, but Aaron suggested a small race in the Northwest, and I had a bigger vision. If we were going to attempt a World Record then I wanted to do it with the World watching. Life Time Fitnessâ€™s final race, the Toyota US Open in Dallas, Texas was the right place. A few phone calls and some lucky connections between Aaron and Life Time Fitness, and within a day we had our trip planned and booked.
Aaron Scheidies suffers from macular degeneration, which has caused his vision to slowly deteriorate since around the third grade. Aaronâ€™s childhood dream of becoming the next David Beckham was his toughest loss, but that may be the only thing he let go with his vision. I have two short stories from this week to demonstrate the type of athlete and person Aaron is.
1) Within hours of arriving in Dallas Aaron had met Chuck Norrisâ€™ agent with Triton Sports Marketing, and some big wigs from Life Time, got tickets to the Dallas Stars game and was taken to the Cowboyâ€™s Stadium where he kicked a 30 yard field goal and made it.
2) Saturday afternoon we grabbed lunch at the Hiltonâ€™s sports bar with Jillian Petersen, a pro that Aaron befriended in Switzerland, and who stayed with us this weekend. I asked Jillian if she wanted to play pool, and Aaron said heâ€™d partner with somebody. We both thought he was joking, but I figured that since Iâ€™m pretty awful at Billiards he would handicap Jillian enough to make it even. The game ended with Aaron tapping in the 8 ball while two of my balls were left on the table. He accidentally hit in two of my balls while he completely dominated the table. If anything, Jillian held him back.
Yes, I was beaten in pool by a blind kid, but thatâ€™s not the point. Not anyone can kick in a 30 yard field goal without having practiced. Not everyone can walk into a room filled with unknown corporate executives and walk out with a handful of new friends. Aaron is not only athletically gifted, but heâ€™s also an exception personality. I could list a lot more qualities, and tell you a dozen things Aaron can do despite his disability, but there is no â€œdespiteâ€. Iâ€™m not comparing him just to other disabled people. Aaron Scheidies is good at life.
I joined Aaron in Dallas on Thursday before the Sunday morning race. He had me picked up from the airport so we could get right to the important stuff: media coverage. Within an hour of landing I was on a tandem bicycle riding around Dallas with a camera crew. The reporter kept reiterating what I already knew: he did not take the story because Aaron is disabled. He was there for the story because Aaron is good. When Iâ€™m on the tandem itâ€™s like having a gasoline engine behind me. Aaron pumps away, and often I would have to tell him back off to keep us from taking a corner too quickly or rear ending a car. Aaron is horse on the back of the bike. By the time the reporters asked me if I thought we could break the two hour barrier I was confident in when I told them, â€œItâ€™s a certainty.â€