From Nic. Excited to feature another paratriathlete that is affiliated with the CDifferent Organization. This is one of the befitting charities of the Chris Lieto event in a few weeks. Israel Antonio is a Chicago native and looks forward to shining at ITU 2014 and 2015 ITU Worlds. If you participate at ITU, look for him! Sure he will have a smile on his face!
1. Tell us a little about yourself
Born and raised in chicago, I loved playing sports throughout my childhood. Whether in organized leagues, on school teams, or with neighborhood friends, I enjoyed baseball, basketball, and football. I was never the biggest or strongest, but frequently, I was the fastest. when I was fourteen years old, I lost my sight overnight as a result of detached retinas. Because I did not experience any head trauma which often causes detached retinas, my doctor's best explanation was that my retinas slowly detached over a period of six to eight weeks, but I did not see evidence until the fateful day on which I woke up unable to see clearly.
2. How I became interested in triathlons.
I have always wanted to achieve a physique similar to that of Bruce Lee. After experiencing a broken heart due to a young woman, I started to put on massive weight which was a combination of fat and bulky muscle. Then I discovered Fit TV's Fit Nation hosted by celebrity trainer, Gina Lombardi which inspired me to examine my lifestyle and make some changes. Simultaneously, I started watching another Fit TV program, Insider Training where I watched one episode over and over. that particular episode featured Lokelani McMichael who in 1995 became the youngest person to complete an Ironman Triathlon when she was eighteen years old. I was so fascinated by her story and achievement that I was inspired to research whether I could compete in triathlons. Every search engine result kept including one name. A roofer, film producer, actor, model, triathlete named Matt Miller who had founded the C Different Foundation to help blind and visually impaired individuals pursue their dreams of competing in races. I reached out to Mr. Miller who immediately responded to welcome me to his family. I did one half marathon with the C Different folks at which point Matt insisted I register for the New York city triathlon only months away. I did. I completed my first triathlon and have been racing ever since.
3. My 2014 race season.
I have ITU Worlds Chicago on June 28. Paratriathlon US Nationals in Tempe on September 21. If I'm lucky enough to be selected for Team USA Worlds squad for the second consecutive year, then I will race at the Paratriathlon World Champs in Canada in late August. I plan to pick up a few more triathlons during the summer months if I can. I will close out my 2014 season by racing my fifth consecutive Chicago Marathon in October as I attempt to qualify for Boston for the fifth time.
4. My favorite of the three disciplines.
Running is my favorite of the three disciplines. In some way, I feel that I am still in search of the speed from my youth which made me one of the fastest kids.
5. Advice to those wishing to guide para-athletes.
One of my friends said it best, "Find someone slower than you and guide them." Because it will be your responsibility to call out obstacles on the course, warn other runners, or offer many verbal cues as you are running, I believe it would be dangerous to attempt to do all this with someone as fast or faster than you. Other athletes or guides might argue with this next point, but I do not believe there is a one size fits all method of guiding. Each blind and visually impaired athlete is a different individual with his or her own preferences. Make sure to get to know him or her. Feel free to ask plenty of questions. If possible, volunteer to go swimming, cycling, or running with the person several times to find a comfort level and communication system which works best for you and the person. There are several local and national organization which are always in need of people to volunteer as guides, but a great way, if you can, is just reach out and get to know an athlete individually. Most of my guides are my friends first and foremost who happen to be elite or pro athlete athletes who over time would let me know of their availability to guide me.