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National Blind Sports Day Highlights Visually Impaired Athletes Like Isaac Jean-Paul And Noah Malone

By Ryan Wilson | Oct. 03, 2020, 9 a.m. (ET)

Isaac Jean-Paul competes in the Men's Long Jump T13 on Day Six of the IPC World Para Athletics Championships 2019 Dubai on Nov. 12, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


When Isaac Jean-Paul was younger, his idea of what it meant to be a man was what he gleamed from watching television shows, that masculinity was always being in charge and being tough.

“Since I wasn’t able to do that, I had to overcome my thought of what masculinity was,” Jean-Paul said. “Now, masculinity to me, is how you view yourself as a man, what you do for others, and how others perceive you by how you act, not by what you can do.”

During this year’s National Blind Sports Week, Jean-Paul, a T13 classification track and field athlete, and fellow rising track star Noah Malone, T12, find themselves reflecting on how much they have learned since joining the Paralympic Movement. National Blind Sports Week runs from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3, concluding with the third annual National Blind Sports Day. It is aimed at showcasing sports and opportunities for blind and visually impaired athletes.

Both Jean-Paul and Malone are very new to the Paralympic Movement. For Malone, a freshman at Indiana State University, this is his second year in Para sports.

He was introduced to disabled sports in 2018 by Cathy Sellers, the former high performance director for U.S. Paralympic Track & Field. Malone competed in the next Desert Challenge, and posted a time that put him on the national team.

“That’s really where I met a lot of my friends who I still have to this day,” Malone said.

Noah Malone competes for the U.S. Para Track & Field team.


Jean-Paul landed in the international Para athletics stage at the 2017 world championships in London. He had previously competed in able-bodied track and field and basketball.

Right away, he said he was impressed by the sight of Tatyana McFadden and Lex Gillette.

McFadden is a five-time Paralympian and 17-time Paralympic medalist in track and field, and Gillette has won four Paralympic medals across four Games.

“I’m like … ‘They’re the real deal! What I’m about to see is magical,’” Jean-Paul said. “Little did I know, I was going to create magic of my own later that week.”

Because he had been involved in able-bodied sports leading up to getting involved in Para sports, Jean-Paul said he felt in denial that he even had a disability. But seeing many disabled athletes in London was eye-opening.

“For so long, I was in denial about my disability, because I wasn’t affected by it,” Jean-Paul said.

After getting stuck in the bathroom leading up to his long jump, he eventually broke three world records in his event, and is committed to medaling in not only the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2021 but the Olympic Games as well. He plans on competing in the long jump, 100-meter and world relay team at the next year’s Paralympic Games, and in long jump and high jump in the Olympic Games.

He could become the first athlete to medal in both Games.

“I want to be the only person to do that,” he said.

Jean-Paul has juvenile retinoschisis, meaning his retina is detached from his eye. He has no peripheral vision in his left eye, and weakened vision in his other eye in daylight. Malone has Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, an eye condition in which he has 20/400 vision in his left eye and 20/600 vision in his right.

Jean-Paul and Malone recognize how much they have learned from Para sport in such a short time. It’s connected them with a community of disabled people who share similar experiences and goals, and It’s taught them about advocating for themselves and others.

“It really taught me how to be independent, because everyone else there (at a Para athletic event) is independent despite their disability,” Malone said. “It’s almost like a family atmosphere.”

Malone acquired his disability in 2015 when he was 13 years old. He said it was scary to advocate for himself at first, but he has since embraced this fear. In college, he said, self-advocacy has to be one of his “top skills.”

He said he hopes to compete in the 100, relay and long jump in Tokyo.

If he wins gold, “That would be the world.”

He added: “Para sports are a great opportunity for who have disabilities like myself. It’s a great platform where we can compete against each other, instead of running with able-bodieds.”

Ryan Wilson

Ryan Wilson is a writer and independent documentary filmmaker from Champaign, Illinois. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Isaac Jean-Paul

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Noah Malone

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