I was born totally blind. The doctors didn’t know if I would ever see. When I was around eight months old, somehow my vision just popped into existence. My parents were glad, of course, but when they went to see the doctor, he told them I’d be lucky if I ever saw a soccer ball. My vision was still far from good; I was diagnosed as legally blind, and clinically disabled.
Growing up, I didn’t notice it much, aside from playing sports. I remember trying to catch footballs and getting nailed in the face because my depth perception is very poor. Since my parents wanted me to be active, and I couldn’t play sports, I joined martial arts. My instructor didn’t know about my condition, and he would always point to where I should be. When I couldn’t see where he was pointing, he would make me do push-ups for insubordination. I did a lot of push-ups.
As I got older, my interest grew in running. I joined the middle school track team as a sprinter. I loved the feeling of being free to move how I wanted. When I was running, nothing could stop me, not even my disability. That feeling of freedom is what made me want to be an athlete. At the end of middle school, a friend introduced me to parkour. I played a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog games, and loved the idea of bouncing off of walls and jumping huge gaps. I was immediately hooked, and the rest is history. I started training, and after a few years, I started teaching, so that I could pass my knowledge on to others who want to see the world like I do now.
Growing up, I was raised to know that no matter what, nothing can stop you from achieving something that you want to strive for. I see the powerful, worldwide force that is parkour, and I want to show people that regardless of their age, size, weight, or internal and external struggles, they can make their dreams happen. It’s certainly difficult; as I got older, I realized how much my sight affected me. There are lots of things I can’t do, and avenues that are closed to me because of my disability. If I hadn’t seen a dream that I wanted to realize, I probably would never have tried parkour. But I persisted, and eventually, I found a way to navigate my own path through life. While there are struggles, nothing can prevent you from progressing as long as you keep moving forward. Everything is, after all, just an obstacle to be overcome.
Payton, Congrats to a wonderfully made guy. May God continue to bless you! Much respect and love, Valeri Litke