CARMEL, Ind. – Instead of the world closing in around Noah Malone after he was diagnosed with a visual impairment, it has widened.
Who needs sight when you have vision?
That was a slogan on a T-shirt of blind athlete Lex Gillette, who was introduced to Malone during a February stint at the U.S. Olympic training center in Chula Vista, Calif.
Malone, 16, a sophomore at Hamilton Southeastern, has not only helped position the Royals to be contenders for the state track and field championship. He is potentially on a path to gold medals as soon as the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and certainly thereafter. World records, too.
“The fact that they brought me out there really just showed me I’m able and capable of doing great things,” Malone said. “I’m nowhere near my potential, as a matter of fact. It was motivating.”
In Thursday night’s Carmel Sectional, he won a sprint triple: 10.80 seconds in the 100 meters, a sectional record of 21.83 in the 200, and anchor leg for the HSE team setting a sectional record of 41.93 in the 400 relay.
At Chula Vista, coaches refined Malone’s start, explained phases of a race, even changed his breathing. One of his coaches was Joaquim Cruz, a Brazilian who won a gold medal in the 800 meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. One of the other athletes was David Brown, a 100-meter gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
“There are no excuses out there,” said Malone’s mother, LaTasha Sturdivant. “David Brown is blind, too.”
As chronicled a year ago by IndyStar, Malone was diagnosed in 2016 with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which affects the optic nerve. Before then, his vision was normal. About 100 Americans a year lose central vision to the disease, joining the 4,000 others who already have it, according to LHON.org.
The sprinter takes one class at HSE and the rest at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis.
He retained peripheral vision, allowing him to see lane lines in the 200-meter dash. His eyesight has not worsened and, in fact, was better in recent tests done at UCLA.
“There’s a small, small chance of some improvement,” said Kyle Malone, his father.
Malone’s times are improving, too. He will be recruited my major colleges who will see his name and have no idea he is legally blind. He made the 100-meter state final as a freshman in 10.74 and was eighth in the final in 10.83.