Sprinter adjusts to crisis
David Brown, the world’s fastest totally visually impaired sprinter, has been accompanied every step of the way by his guide Jerome Avery but the coronavirus outbreak has forced them apart for the first time in six years of training and racing together.
Many runners can continue training more or less as usual in this time of social and physical distancing but it is not so easy for those without sight, who run in tandem with their guide, their adjoining hands tethered by a 30cm (12 inch) band.
But even though Brown and Avery cannot currently work in such a manner, they are not sitting idle as they continue working towards their goal of defending their Olympic title in Tokyo next year.
“Right now, we have to make some adaptations,” American Brown, the world 100m record-holder for the totally visually impaired at 10.92 seconds, said over the phone. “Jerome, or my coach (former 800m Olympic champion Joaquim Cruz), will stand about 50 or 60m away and clap loudly and I’ll sprint towards them.”
Brown, who lost his sight from Kawasaki disease that caused glaucoma and ultimately complete blindness when he was a boy, is understandably less confident running alone. “Running with a guide as opposed to not is night and day,” he said.
Watching Brown and Avery run together at full speed in perfect synchrony is like poetry in motion. And while Brown deserves every plaudit that comes his way, Avery’s role is not to be ignored.
Brown’s guide must be faster for starters. Avery checks this box, with a 100m personal best of 10.17.
Avery, now 42, says he switched to being a guide after realising that for all his speed he was not quite fast enough to be an Olympic medallist.
“I was getting older and I knew in my heart that in order to not just qualify for the Games, but to be a medallist I would have to be running 9.9 or 9.8,” he said.