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Sight-Impaired Athletes Compete in 27th Games

May 09, 1999|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN

UNIVERSAL CITY — Under overcast skies on a track field in the Cahuenga Pass, 270 blind or visually-impaired student athletes competed Saturday with a lot of heart.

The competitors, ages 6 to 19, traveled from six states to take part in the 27th annual Braille Institute-Optimist Clubs Track and Field Olympics.

They are kids who are accustomed to overcoming obstacles.

"To us kids that are visually impaired or blind, this allows us to get out there and show people what we can do and to prove to ourselves we can do anything," said Manny Casillas, 19, of Tucson.

Competitors at the event, held at the Braille Institute Los Angeles Youth Center near Universal City, threw the shotput, performed high jumps, raced and mastered an obstacle course that included a wall that loomed high over their heads.

Many were accomplished athletes, indistinguishable from their sighted peers except for the guide ropes along the length of the track and the volunteer spotters who helped high-jump competitors reach their target marks.

Casillas, who attends the Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind, also went home as one of two winners of the Fred Crane Award, bestowed on athletes that best exemplify the spirit of the games.

The event was memorable, he said, and "getting out of school for a few days doesn't hurt either."

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