Winters, guide win silver in aquathlon event
MURFREESBORO — MTSU math education professor Jeremy Winters, who is legally blind, continues to show his athletic prowess, finishing among the Top 10 overall at this year’s paratriathlon world championships in London.
After a second place finish in his division at the national paratriathlon championships held in Austin, Texas, in the spring, Winters flew overseas to go up against physically challenged athletes from around the world at the 2013 ITU World Triathlon Championships on Sept. 13 in England.
The Tullahoma, Tenn., native competes in partnership with a “guide” for the three-pronged event, which consists of a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer tandem bike race and a 5-kilometer run. Winters, who is tethered to his guide during the swimming and running portions and wears black-out glasses, competes in the Paratriathlon Male TRI-6b division (visually impaired).
Two days before his Top 10 finish in London, Winters and his guide collected silver medals for an aquathlon competition, which involves a swim followed by a run.
“Being able to complete in both events was an amazing experience,” Winters said.
When Winters was 10 years old, he was diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease Cone-Rod Dystrophy, or CRD. The inherited disease causes sight deterioration and often results in blindness.
Winters was able to play multiple sports, including football and baseball, in high school, but as his sight worsened, he eventually moved solely to track, where he earned a scholarship to college. After college, he remained an avid runner, picked up bicycling and was introduced to paratriathlons by his sister.
To help Winters perform his work as a professor, MTSU provides the now 41-year-old professor with an Americans with Disabilities Act graduate assistant and closed-circuit television that changes normal print into oversize lettering.
MTSU colleague Craig Rice, an elementary and special education professor, is among Winters’ numerous proud supporters within the Blue Raider community, but also has a deeper connection to Winters’ athletic endeavors.
Rice said he and Winters began swimming in spring 2010 and have recently been receiving coaching and workouts from Micaiah D. Rockwell, a graduate of MTSU in December 2011.
“When we set out to swim, bike and run, it was never for the intention of having him complete at either the national or international level,” Rice said. “It has kept us both in pretty good shape.”
Winters’ guide in London, Matt Connors, helped him for the first time, Rice said. Their first event, the aquathlon, was their first time competing together, making the second place result all the more impressive. Both men received medals.
The aquathlon — a swim followed by a running event — was held Sept. 11. Winters and Connors completed the race in 44 minutes and 36 seconds. On Sept. 13, the duo competed in the triathlon, finishing in 1 hour, 18 minutes and 4 seconds.
Winters said “it was cool” to hear the “USA! USA! USA!” chants from the fans as he made his way through the courses. The event was streamed live over the Internet, allowing Rice and other supporters an opportunity to catch a few glimpses of Winters on his journeys to the finish line.
Winters gave special thanks to MOAB Bike Shop in Murfreesboro, which donated the shipping box for the flight over to London. The bike was property of the Tennessee Associate for Blind Athletes, a nonprofit that provides sports and recreational activities for blind or visually impaired men, women and children in Tennessee.
“I truly appreciate everyone involved in helping me accomplish this goal,” he said.