Legally blind athlete needs a 'pilot' to guide him to the finish line

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Reported by: Brittany Jeffers
Updated: 9/25/2012 10:05 am Published: 9/24/2012 8:42 pm

Riding his bike is one of the best feelings in the world for Tim Willison.

“I love to get on there and just go as fast as we can,” said Willison. Biking also gives him the freedom to leave a disability in the dust.

“As a blind person you tend to spend a little more time in doors,” said Willison.

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.

“It is really blurry and I see light and dark silhouettes,” said Willison.

Even though the road is blurry he is pedaling toward his goal of racing in the next Paralympics. To build up his stamina Willison trains on stationary bike inside of his home. He trains twice a day, cycling 23 miles each session.

Willison just returned home from a week long training camp in Colorado Springs hosted by United States Association of Blind Athletes. USABA's Learn to Race Cycling Camp allowed Willison to get a feel for what the next level of training would entail.

The one road block in his way; he can’t reach his dream alone.

“A blind person has to be on a bicycle built for two, a tandem bike,” said Willison, “The hardest part is finding help.”

Willison said his training is somewhat halted untill he can find a pilot, also known as a guide, who is willing to take the handle bars and help him train.

"That means you need to another person who is as crazy as you are and will get up early and work out,” said Willison.

The sighted rider sits at the front of the tandem bike and communiicates 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.

Tim said that he hopes that someone will reach out to him and be willing to help him steer towards his dream.

“Disability really isn’t the word,” said Willison, “It should be called a challenge.”

Once he has a pilot Tim said his goal will be to qualify for the national team.

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