Paralympic blind athlete still has his vision

This story was originally published in the first edition of The Lion’s Tale (October 7th, 2021).

Despite the end of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, on August 5th, the games just began for athletes competing in the 2021 Paralympic Games. This is especially true for USA Paralympic athlete Kyle Coon.

The 29 year old from Jacksonville, Florida suffers from visual-impairment. This is because he suffered from bilateral sporadic retinoblastoma, the most common form of eye cancer for children.

When he lost his eyesight, he was only 7 years old, but believes that even though he cannot see, he has not lost his vision. Even without his sight, he has achieved major accomplishments, before he turned 18.

At the age of 15, he was able to summit Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the
world. Even with this, Coon describes his current training regime as “pretty crazy”.

“Typically, my weekly training schedule is five swims a week, nine through eleven. I usually swim an average of 3000 to 4000 meters, on average, per day. And then, I’m usually on the bike, four times a week, so probably averaging about 120-ish miles,” said Coon.

The commitment and effort that Kyle Coon puts into his training schedule shows how difficult and extreme this competition is. This competition, however, does not get much light from the average person. Coon competed in the paratriathlon. This competition requires athletes to swim 750 meters, bike 20,000 meters, and run 5000 kilometers. Due to its short lengths, this competition is regarded as a sprint race.

While he was not able to win this year, in his debut in the paratriathlon, he finished 5th. Despite not achieving his goal, he quotes losing as a great way of improving, and that he’ll come back strong next time.

“In my competitive career, I’ve lost a lot more than I would like to, so it’s a matter of finding joy in a pursuit of excellence. At the end of the day, I gave absolutely everything I had in that race. I mean there was nothing left in the tank. But at the end of the day, that’s all I can ask of myself.”

Even after competing in the paralympics, Kyle Coon’s biggest fight was against the cancer that took away his eyesight. When Coon was asked what he would say to a child dealing with cancer, he gave a very emotional response.

“Never give up. Cancer is a fight and it’s hard, but just because you are told you have this disease’ you have the power to overcome it. You have the power to surround yourself with the people who can help you fight it. It’s about never giving up and never giving in.”

Coon also described what he would like to do beyond the Paralympics.

“I’ve got a list of things a few miles long. I promised my coach I would take a crack at the Paralympics in Paris in 2024. That will consume quite a bit of my time over the next three years.”

“I would love to climb a few more mountains here in Colorado. I’d love to cross off a longtime dream of mine of running a hundred-mile mountain race. There’s so much I want to do. But at the end of the day, I’m going to find some type of adventure, something that continues to light my fire.”

His inspiration and dedication shows that you can overcome any- thing. It also proves that even though Kyle Coon lost his eyesight, he still has not lost his visions.