Legally-Blind Athletes Shoot Targets In Paralympic Biathlon In Sochi

Mar 10, 2014

A legally blind skier from Sun Valley, Idaho finished in 14th place in the opening biathlon competition at the Paralympic Winter Games over the 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. The athletes use a special laser rifle that’s connected to headphones.

"I'm looking downrange with my ears, trying to find this very small target," said John Farra, the U.S. Paralympic Nordic team leader, as he demonstrated during a training camp near Ketchum, Idaho.

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

“It's so hard to find dead center," Farra said.

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.