Athlete gears up to compete
Life is all about balance for Special Olympian Paul Jones.
The 44-year-old Massey man is on a quest to hit the power walking track at the national Special Olympics in Dunedin.
Jones has retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease which impairs his vision and makes him totally blind at night.
His father has the same disability but spurred Jones on at a young age to begin running and stay healthy.
At 25 he was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.
"I began to feel thirsty all the time and a friend told me I wasn't looking too well," Jones says.
"It was a little scary when I was diagnosed and my vision had already started to fade by that time."
Jones takes insulin four times a day and needs to balance his food by carefully calculating the calories.
If he gets it wrong his blood sugar levels are in danger of dropping, leading to seizures or worse.
"Your whole life changes but you learn to deal with it."
Jones' love for running has had to take a back seat in recent years because of stricter rules at the events. If you bump or touch another athlete on the track you risk being disqualified and that's too risky for Jones considering his vision.
Waitakere Special Olympics Waitakere coach May Langley says the event has become a lot more commercialised which has resulted in tougher rules.
"It's a shame because Paul is a beautiful runner.
"He's had good training in the past and when he runs he really takes off," she says.
Jones will join 24 other West Auckland athletes to compete in his third national Special Olympics in November.
He will take the track in the 800m and 1500m power walking events and qualified with three gold medals at the Tauranga regionals in February.
Stand out athletes will also get the opportunity to qualify for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
"I'm not really in it for self-gratification," Jones says.
"I just want to help develop the Special Olympics, the support networks and everyone involved in the community."
Go to specialolympics.org.nz.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Are you heading out of Auckland on the Christmas, New Year break?