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Crockett Crowned World Champion On Road To Rio

By Scottie Bibb | Sept. 06, 2014, 12:06 p.m. (ET)

Dartanyon Crockett reacts to winning the gold-medal match at the 2014 IBSA Judo World Championships on Sept. 5, 2014 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Dartanyon Crockett entered the 2014 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo World Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with one thing on his mind: gold.

The 23-year-old former wrestler from Cleveland achieved that goal on Friday night by defeating Russia’s Malik Kurbanov in the men’s -90 kg. gold-medal match.

The event featured competitors from 37 countries, including 16 Americans.

"It (the gold-medal match) went exactly how I needed it to go," Crockett said. "We had a game plan from Day 1. Before I even stepped on the mat, we had a game plan."

"I trusted in my coaches, and my coaches trusted in my ability," Crockett continued. "It ended up perfect."

Crockett has now added the title of world champion to his already impressive resume, which includes a bronze medal from the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

Despite his seemingly meteoric rise to the top ranks of Paralympic judo, Crockett's path has not always been an easy one.

He was born with Leber optic atrophy, a degenerative disease that causes severe loss of vision. After his mother passed away when he was just 8 years old, he was left in sole care of his father who battled alcohol and drug addiction.

Crockett turned to sports - wrestling in particular - to help cope with the stress and uncertainty he was facing at home.

He was recruited by USA Judo in 2010, and his natural athletic ability shone. He quickly won the national championship title in both the -81 kg. and -90 kg. categories.

Crockett credits a multitude of coaches, friends and fellow athletes who have supported him on his journey.

"I have to recognize Lisa Fenn, who got me here," Crockett said. Fenn, formerly with ESPN, produced a short documentary on Crockett and his friend, Leroy Sutton, called "Carry On."

The short film was a phenomenal success, generating fans and followers for Crockett around the world.

"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here today," Crockett continued. "She's a dear, dear friend, and I owe all of this to her."

Crockett resides in Colorado Springs and attends Pikes Peak Community College, where he majors in social work and psychology.

He has also recently added 'saxophone player' to his list of achievements.

"I've always loved the saxophone, but I've never had the money or the time to play it," Crockett said. "Now I've got just a little bit more money...though I don't have that much time... but I still enjoy it!"

Crockett also finds time to mentor Paralympic hopefuls. He recently participated in U.S. Paralympics’ Gateway to Gold development program, which is aimed at discovering youth and adults with physical and visual disabilities who have an interest in entering the U.S. Paralympic competitive structure.

Following his victory at the world championships, Crockett plans on taking some time off for rest and relaxation.

"There's really not an off-season for us," Crockett said. "I'll take a few weeks off, but then it's back to training."

It may be only 2014, however Crockett is already thinking about the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"My focus is on Rio," Crockett said. "In my head, I'm already there. Everything I do between now and 2016 is focused on getting that gold (medal) in Rio."

Crockett says that he wants everyone to understand that even the loftiest of goals are achievable.

"Anything is possible," Crockett said. "I come from the worst parts of Cleveland, and now I'm a world champion. Anything is possible."

Scottie Bibb is a writer from Colorado. She is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Dartanyon Crockett