[tabi] 8/14/12 Tallahassee Democrat Article "Tiffany Wilson inspires on and off the track"

  • From: Lighthouse of the Big Bend <lighthousebigbend@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: tabi <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2012 10:18:05 -0400

*Tiffany Wilson** inspires on and off the track*

12:22 AM, Aug 14, 2012 |

Tiffany Wilson / Special to the Democrat

Written by *Jim Henry, Democrat assistant sports editor*

Tiffany Wilson hasn’t allowed blindness to stop her from living or learning.

Wilson even considers herself as a late bloomer to athletics, where she has
excelled in track and field and running events on the local and national
levels over the past 16 years.

“I don’t feel disabled in any way when I am running,” Wilson explained.

“It’s almost just an exhaling, a freedom, especially when I am racing fast.
It’s an amazing moment and feels so perfect. It’s something I don’t
experience every time, but I run for that feeling.”

Wilson, a bundle of positive energy at 48, has been visually impaired since
birth after her mother contracted measles during pregnancy.

Wilson, a senior rehabilitation specialist for the Florida Division of
Blind Services in Tallahassee and motivational speaker, is totally blind in
her right eye and has pinhole vision in her left eye. And, in her own
words, glaucoma has recently joined the party, too.

But don’t fret for Wilson. Her infectious personality and charm exudes
confidence and appreciation.

“I don’t have any excuses for not giving my best,” said Wilson’s
17-year-old daughter Caitlan, an accomplished track athlete at Godby High.

“I think her enthusiasm is generated by her need to inspire us and push us
to reach our potential, too. Honestly, I just think she loves everything
she does or tries.”

Wilson believed she was the only blind person in the world for most of her
youth that was spent between California and Jacksonville. She simply didn’t
know any better.

Wilson attended public schools, relying on her mother’s inspiration to
excel. Wilson joined her friends in the classroom and on the playground,
where, yes, accidents happened like running into immovable objects. She
rode her bicycle fast and free, following the sound of a bell on her
sister’s bike.

Wilson didn’t meet another blind person until her 20s and first learned
Braille, a system that enables blind and partially signed people to read
and write through touch, at age 30.

Yet, it was her chance introduction to track and field that ignited her
passion for running.

As a guest speaker at an event hosted by the Braille Institute in San
Diego, Calif., in the late 1990s, Wilson was asked to participate in the
organization’s youth Olympics to show support for the program.

Wilson borrowed a pair of tennis shoes and, with the help of a guide, ran
the 100-meter dash and competed in the long jump and high jump. Wilson’s
results were submitted to the United States Association of Blind Athletes
and she qualified for the Pan-Am Games for the Blind in Quebec City, Canada.

A new career – and running star – was born.

Wilson has traveled the world racing the past 16 years. She has won
international gold medals; carried the torch for the California State
Games, where she was the first blind athlete to compete and win gold in the
Games; resided and trained at two Olympic Training Centers; and qualified
for the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Trails held last month in

Wilson also competes locally in events with the same energy and

Wilson trains with her daughter Caitlin, usually tethered together by a
cord and focused on stride cadence. Wilson also has incorporated line
training (learning to run in a straight line) over the years. She has
fallen and injured herself but has always gotten back up.

Wilson has also utilized a guide dog during her years of travel.

While Wilson says it might be time to step away from elite competition,
she’s not slowing down. Life is too precious, she said. There’s so much
more to enjoy and learn. There are people to meet – and, yes, inspire.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about myself is that I have a
little bit of tenacity, that steadfastness, that pride to succeed and
excel,” Wilson said.

“I love the competition and the friendships I’ve developed over the years.
Honestly, I am truly blessed. My focus is wanting to help my students excel
in school, in their community and their chosen career. “



Lighthouse of the Big Bend - Guiding People Through Vision Loss
3071 Highland Oaks Terrace, Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 942-3658 - www.lighthousebigbend.org

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