Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Legally Blind Shoot Targets In Paralympic Biathlon

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
2013 file photo of Paralympian Omar Bermejo training for biathlon in Sun Valley, Idaho.

A legally blind skier from Sun Valley, Idaho finished in 14th place in the opening biathlon competition at the Paralympic Winter Games this weekend.

Rookie Paralympian Jake Adicoff missed multiple rifle targets to take himself out of contention in the 7.5 kilometer event held in Sochi, Russia. This combination of cross country skiing and marksmanship unfolded on the same course used for the Winter Olympics last month.

Rifle shooting and the visually impaired doesn't sound like an obvious combination. But John Farra, the U.S. Paralympic Nordic team leader, showed how it's done during a training camp near Ketchum, Idaho.

Farra aims the special laser rifle that visually impaired athletes use. It's connected to headphones.

"I'm looking downrange with my ears trying to find this very small target," he explains.

The tone changes as the rifle points closer to the target center -- the higher the pitch, the better.

"Ugh, it's so hard to find dead center," Farra says. "Missed, didn't I?"

For the cross country skiing portion of the biathlon, Sun Valley's Jake Adicoff skis behind a sighted guide. Adicoff says he was born with scarred retinas, the result of chicken pox during pregnancy. The 18-year-old is blind in his right eye, but has a little bit of vision in the left.

He has four more cross country races between now and the Paralympic Closing Ceremony next Sunday.

In other action at the Paralympic Games, alpine skier Mark Bathum of Mercer Island, Wash., won silver in the visually impaired class of the men’s super-G competition Sunday. By tradition, Bathum's guide, Cade Yamamoto from Quincy, Wash., also gets a silver medal.

Bathum and Yamamoto managed to land on the podium after racing together for only the last two and a half months.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.