Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Legally Blind Girl wins pole-vaulting medal

A Mighty Girl
After years of hard work, 17-year-old pole vaulter Charlotte Brown finally made it to the medal stand at the Texas state high championship on Saturday. Charlotte's bronze medal win at the
state-wide competition is impressive for any athlete but what's even more extraordinary is that Charlotte can't see the bar she vaults over. She is legally blind and uses a special beeper to guide her to the planting box for the jump. Her guide dog Vador joined her on the podium when she received her medal, after which she told the AP: "I finally did it. If I could send a message to anybody, it’s not about pole vaulting and it’s not about track. It’s about finding something that makes you happy despite whatever obstacles are in your way.”

Born with normal vision, Charlotte developed cataracts as a toddler. A series of operations stabilized her vision until age 11 and then it continued to deteriorate until she became legally blind several years ago. This fiercely independent Mighty Girl from Emory, Texas decided to take up pole vaulting in the seventh grade because she wanted to pursue a sport that was "dangerous and exciting." She attributes her fearlessness and positive attitude to her parents’ refusal to treat her differently and her two brothers’ competitiveness.

At Saturday's competition, Charlotte missed her first attempts at 10-0 and 10-6 but cleared both on her second try. She also cleared 11-0 and 11-6 on her first attempt and received a standing ovation from several hundred fans. With the season over, the high school senior is looking forward to new challenges at Purdue University where she is heading on an academic scholarship and plans to try out for track.

 Charlotte knows that many people view her as a role model, especially for athletes with disabilities. She told Sports Illustrated last year, "If I can inspire people by doing what I think is easy, that's
awesome... Whatever obstacle is in the way, I want to get over it, to win and to achieve something great." As she reflected on her long sought-after medal this weekend, she asserted, "This story... really wasn’t about me. It was about everybody that struggles with something.”

 To read more about Charlotte's medal-winning championship, visit

-- for an ESPNW infographic showing how she pole vaults without seeing, visit

 To inspire your children with the stories of more female sports trailblazers, visit our “Sports & Games” section at

 For several books starring Mighty Girls who are blind, check out
"Walking Through A World of Aromas" for ages 4 to 8
"Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village" for ages 4 to 8
(, and
"Mirror, Mirror on the Wall" for ages 9 to 12

 For an assortment of books about the famous deaf-blind author, lecturer, and activist Helen Keller in our "Helen Keller Collection", visit

 For a selection of books about Mighty Girls with a range of disabilities, visit our section on "People with Disabilities" at

 And, for many stories about girls and women who persevere even in the face of adversity, visit our "Resiliency" section

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