A Bloody Nose and Broken Glasses Did Not Stop a Blind-Hearing Impaired 9 Year Old from Dreaming of Olympic Gold

Share Article

Michael Larsen, an athlete of the Blind Judo Foundation who was born with a rare eye disease leaving him blind, later deaf and bullied during his early school years, learned to overcome his disabilities with training and dedication to Jujitsu and Judo with dreams of becoming a member of the 2016 US Paralympic Judo Team but he, like other blind Judo athletes, needs your support.

Michael Larsen, Deaf-Blind Judo Athlete Dreaming of Becoming a Candidate for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover... - Mark Twain

The Blind Judo Foundation is seeking donations and funds to continue the road to Gold with Michael's dream of becoming a candidate for the 2016 US Paralympic Judo Team. Michael and other blind athletes like him are big dreamers and need your financial support to compete in tournaments not only locally, nationally and internationally to help qualify for the 2016 US Paralympic Judo Team.

Michael Larsen could have easily given up on his dreams from the get go. Doctors told his parents at birth that he was visually impaired. It took twenty-five years to get the diagnosis of Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. Doctors told his parents to treat him like a sighted child.

Michael reports his earliest memory is "wearing dark glasses and feeling different from other children," when he started elementary school. He did not know that there would be more challenges on the horizon. For two years, "I was constantly sick with painful ear infections leading to many missed school days," says Michael.

Hospital stays and multiple operations to drain the fluid from behind his eardrums offered short lived relief and, ultimately took its toll. Scar tissue on the eardrums caused a dramatic 45 percent hearing loss. This meant "I had to start wearing hearing-aids," says Michael.

In third grade, he went to a special class for visually impaired children which gave him some comfort. For the first time, he had the opportunity to learn from teachers who used visual aids and appreciated Michael and his classmates’ visual challenges.

However, outside the special class, sighted children started bullying Michael. Not only was "I overweight, I was the only kid wearing dark glasses and hearing aids, which made me an easy target for bullies," according to Michael. "When I was 9 years old, several kids began to call me names and ambushed me in the bathroom. My glasses were broken and I went to the nurse with a bloody nose," Michael recalls.

Teachers could not stop the bullying and Michael began to eat with teachers to avoid the bullies. He told his parents, but they did not know what to do either. Sometimes, they blamed him for the abuse saying he was lazy and it was his fault that kids were mean to him.

In Junior high, a student stole his cane and tried to trip him with it. By then, Michael had a secret weapon. He had learned Jujitsu and Judo. Michael reports proudly, “I was able to take back my cane from the bully and the physical assaults stopped.” Judo helped build his confidence and guarded him against bullying. "I did not have to fight him. I just defended myself and let him know I could fight back,” says Michael. In addition, Michael was introduced to swimming. Michael became a multi-talented athlete winning medals in swimming and Judo.

Bullying is an epidemic in the US and around the world. Coach Willy Cahill, Co-Founder of the Blind Judo Foundation and owner of Cahill’s Judo Academy and Dr. Barbara Lavi, an associate of the Blind Judo Foundation, were recently guests on the syndicated Blind Matters Radio Show discussing the topic of bullying. Cahill has helped many kids overcome bullying. He feels, “Learning Judo and becoming more self-confident helps kids be less likely to become the target of bullies,” says Cahill. Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Barbara Lavi, author of The Wake Up and Dream Challenge, spoke in-depth about how to prevent bullying and also offered ideas and road maps that can help people reach their dreams regardless of their physical challenges. Lavi says, “There are kids like Michael around the world who are suffering at the hands of cruel children who bully those that are weaker than themselves. Parents and teachers must do everything they can to stop this epidemic.”

As an adult, Michael, who is now 34 years old, went on to become a massage therapist. He is respected by all his clients. His constant companion is a seeing-eye dog. But Judo and Jujitsu are still paramount on his mind. Michael practices several days a week with Coach Cahill, the former US Olympic and US Paralympic Judo Coach. Michael like many other blind and visually impaired athletes, need your help to get to the Paralympics.

The mission of the Blind Judo Foundation is to support worthy and qualified candidates and funding is their financial lifeline. Half of the profits from The Wake Up and Dream Challenge book will help support these efforts.

The Blind Judo Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization whose mission is to empower the blind and visually impaired using the tools and tenets of Judo. These include but not limited to confidence building, character development, how-to make commitments and follow through, humility, respect and responsibility. All members of the Foundation are volunteers. Funding of blind and visually impaired athletes to train, travel locally, nationally and internationally are through tax exempt donations, the financial life-line. Donations are tax exempt. To learn more about the Foundation, check out blindjudofoundation.org and at http://www.facebook.com/BlindJudoFoundation or contact Ron C. Peck at roncpeck(at)blindjudofoundation(dot)org or 425-444-8256.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Ron Peck
since: 11/2008
Follow >
Blind Judo Foundation
Like >
Follow us on
Visit website