Blind MTSU professor is national champion paratriathlete - WSMV Channel 4

Blind MTSU professor is national champion paratriathlete

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

Many viewers of the London Olympics have been in awe of the amazing skill displayed by the Olympians this week. But imagine swimming and running in total darkness.

Jeremy Winters, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, is teaching us all about the perseverance of a true champion.

The vision of reaching the glorious finish line is what drives most athletes, but this paratriathlon national champion doesn't see the track like so many other athletes.

"One of my big goals in all of this is to show my children not to let things stand in your way," Winters said.

Winters is legally blind, as an incurable, degenerative eye disease has slowly blurred his vision since he was 10 years old.

"I have a lot of central vision loss, which it gets harder and harder as speeds increase. So the faster I run, the less vision I have," he said.

But that doesn't stop Winters from competing in the 750m swim, the 20km and 5k run.

"There's a phrase, 'it takes a village,' and I think that is what it is going to take. Because I have to have a guide and someone to ride with me," he said.

The 39-year-old athlete has to wear blackout glasses during competition, but he is tethered to a guide who helps him steer clear of obstacles that he might otherwise run into on his own.

"I fell over a hurdle and I ran the wrong direction," he said.

Winters said just qualifying for nationals was a challenge.

"We blew the motor out in our van, my guide - his daughter was sick, so he was up all night and then about two minutes before the race lightning struck," Winters said.

He made it to another event and eventually qualified for the national championship in Austin, TX.

Then, his perseverance paid off as he won the race in a time of 1:24.

Now, his focus turns to the competition in 2016.

"The next Olympic Games in Rio, the paratriathlon will be part of the paralympics for the first time. So I kind of have a four-year plan," Winters said.

Winters works as a math education professor at MTSU. When he's not training, he's following the Olympics in London, especially the track and field events.

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