Visually Impaired Rowing Team Competes On Oklahoma River

Sunday, October 2nd 2011, 3:36 pm
By: News 9

Deanne Stein,

OKLAHOMA CITY – Being blind or visually impaired has it's challenges. Just ask Dave Anderson.

"I can't see anybody's face," Anderson said. "But I can see colors and that helps."

Christian Gorshing is also visually impaired. She was diagnosed with an eye disease when she was 12-years-old. It caused her to lose her central vision and now she can only see through her peripheral vision.

"The biggest challenge is actually transportation because I'm a very independent person and I like to do things for myself," said Gorshing. "I always have to rely on somebody else to take me where I want to go."

Anderson and Gorshing have more than being visually impaired in common. The two are part of a unique rowing team in Oklahoma City.

"Some of us love sports, but because you can't see the ball or anything like that, this was a great way to be able to basically compete," said Gorshing.

The team is called the VIARP (Visually Impaired Adapted Rowing Project) Vipers and sponsored by the Chesapeake Boathouse and NewView Oklahoma. The team competed on the Oklahoma River during the Oklahoma Regatta Festival in the 500 meter sprint on Friday, September 30 and the 4500 meter head on Sunday, October 2.

"The Oklahoma Regatta Festival offers a great opportunity to show the community that a visual impairment doesn't have to be an obstacle to living a full and active life," NewView Oklahoma President and CEO Lauren White said. "Our team members have worked very hard to prepare for the regatta, and I hope they inspire others to pursue their goals no matter what challenges they face."

And despite their handicap, Anderson and Gorshing said being visually impaired can have it's advantages and even give them an edge on the competition.

"We have to rely on the feel of the boat and the sound to be able to know what we're doing," said Gorshing.

"You look at other boats and their heads are always turned looking at their oars and stuff," said Anderson. "We just pay attention to the boat. We actually have a smooth boat because we're not looking."

On Sunday, the VIARP Vipers placed second in the 4500 meter Head of the Oklahoma race in 18 minutes even.

A Dragon Boat team called the NewView Dragon Crew is also comprised of visually impaired rowers. It's also sponsored by NewView Oklahoma, as well as the Bricktown Rotary and OKC Riversport. The team competed on Friday, September 30.

Find out more about NewView Oklahoma and the programs they offer for the blind and visually impaired.