“It was just an unbelievable feeling that I made the team and I get to represent my country in Rio,” says Chaz, a native of Grafton, Mass., who ran track and field and cross country at the University of Hartford.
About midway through his first year at the University, Chaz was stricken with Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) a rare, incurable genetic disease that causes vision loss. Chaz thought he would never run again. But now, he is in Rio for the Paralympic Games, an international multi-sport event involving athletes with a range of physical disabilities. Chaz will compete in the 1,500-meter run on September 11 and the 5,000-meter run on September 15.
Watch Chaz’s inspiring story of how he, with some help from his teammates, went from losing his sight three years ago to realizing his goal of competing in the Paralympics:
In the fall of 2015 Chaz competed in his first cross-country event after losing his vision. He completed the 8K course in just 27 minutes. In May 2016, he concluded his collegiate career with a standout performance in the 5,000-meters at the New England Championships. He also graduated in May with a degree in criminal justice. Then came the Paralympic Trials, where he won the 5,000-meter run and his 1500-meter heat.
After the Paralympics, Chaz plans attend a 10-month program at the Colorado Center for the Blind where he will learn basic skills for independent living. Then he plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work to help people who have gone through similar experiences to his. “The blindness has not kept me from my goals and what I want in life. I have found a purpose and I want to work with other people like me,” he concludes.