Legally blind athlete finds 'pilots' to help guide him to the finish line

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Reported by: Brittany Jeffers
Updated: 10/09/2012 1:09 pm Published: 10/08/2012 8:08 pm

Tim Willison could’t believe the outpouring of volunteers who wanted to help make his dream of racing in the Paralympics a reality.

“It rocks my work, it blows my mind,” said Tim, “I didn't think there were that many people out there who wanted to help out but it has been great.”

Willison is partially blind. FOX23 interviewed him in September and he was then looking for a pilot, also known as a biking guide, who was willing to take the handle bars and help him train.

Tim was born with a hereditary disease that is slowly robbing him of his eyesight. He is currently legally blind and says his peripheral vision is gone.

Since the broadcast Willison said he has received offers from California, Colorado and Pennsylvania, but he chose three cyclists from Green Country to help him pursue his dream.

“The three guys that I have been with are each different in their own way,” said Willison.

Craig Sahli is a cyclist from Broken Arrow and said he felt compelled to volunteer as a pilot after he watched the original story online.

“It really grabbed my heart,” said Craig, “It felt like it was something that I really needed to do.”

Craig called Tim to volunteer to help train, but he wasn’t the only one.

Rick Tober told FOX23 he remembered the words that called him to sign up.

“Tim said that he was looking for someone as crazy as him to train,” said Rick.

Rick said that immediately emailed Tim after determining, “I’m just crazy enough to do that.”

Rick, Craig and another pilot are currently taking turns training with Tim. Each cyclist bikes with Tim about two times a week.

Willison said the pilots have allowed him to do what he enjoys most: biking.

“They have just made it comfortable,” Willison said.

The sighted rider sits at the front of the tandem bike and communicates what’s ahead to the person with the vision loss in the backseat, also known as the stoker.

Duties of the pilot include telling their partner about turns, surface changes, upcoming hills and when to brake.

“I’ve got to describe what we are getting ready to do so that he can be doing the same thing that I’m doing,” said Craig.

They are still working out their rhythm, but the groundwork is set.

“Not only have I found someone to ride with but I have found a great friend,” said Rick.

Willison said he and his pilots are gearing up for winter training. After that, Tim says that they will prepare for the 2013 race season and then work on qualifying for the National Championships in July.

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