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Will Richardson CREDIT: Triathlon NZ

Impaired vision no barrier for brave Will Richardson
Friday 15 February 2013, 1:22PM
By Triathlon NZ

Will Richardson is a brave young triathlete about to race in the Contact 1:2:1 event at Takapuna this Sunday, just don’t try telling him, this is one 8 year old from St Heliers who doesn’t think he is anything special.

Will was born with a very rare non inherited genetic eye condition called Aniridia, literally translated from Latin this means ‘without iris’, resulting in will’s eyes always being fully dilated. This allows light to flood into his eyes causing extreme light sensitivity and very low vision, to a point where his vision is poor behind 2 to 3 metres.

But that hasn’t held this keen young sportsman back as he continues to amaze his coaches, teachers, parents and peers with his achievements on a daily basis. His mum Victoria says he lives for sport.

“He lives for playing sport of all kinds and never says no to any opportunity,” said Victoria.

“Playing competitive small ball sports such as tennis and cricket have become increasingly difficult as he gets older, mainly because as the kids grow bigger and stronger the ball travels faster. That doesn’t stop him playing beach cricket or having a hit at the tennis courts with the family though. However, he does exceptionally well at larger ball sports such as basketball, soccer and water-polo. He also is a very competent surfer, swimmer, runner and hip hopper! In the future rowing and sailing might be things he would be keen to take up.

The family has dealt with the illness and any issues that arise in a matter of fact way.

“We do many small things to help Will. He usually wears dark sunglasses to help control the glare and he has an iPad he uses at school to take photos of what is on the whiteboard so he can go back to his desk and work from there. Sometimes we worry about him venturing into new territory such as the Takapuna triathlon as he is not familiar with the roads, especially when biking. He has been known to miss the course direction cones. There comes a point though where you just have to let him go and get on with it....if he falls of the bike then he falls. Will is very independent and wants to participate and compete just like everyone else, so we let him.”

Takapuna won’t be Will’s first attempt at triathlon though, he raced in the Contact Tri Series at Whangamata in January 2011 when just 7 years old and has repeated that event and a Weet Bix Kids Tryathlon.

Will admits to being a little nervous ahead of his first race but loved it.

“I was nervous but once the race started I loved it. The swim was easy and once I knew the course it was really fun. I was a bit worried about finding my bike in the transition area... I didn’t know the course roads and I didn’t want to trip up. I hate grazing my knees! The bike is my favourite part because I like to go as fast as I can.”

Will has a long list of sports he loves to play and watch.

“My favourite sports to play are soccer, basketball and swimming. I like watching English soccer (Arsenal) and the NZ Breakers. They are awesome.”

Will won’t be alone on Sunday; his younger sister Charlotte (7) will be racing while brother Reilly (4) will watch from the sidelines with the family.

Victoria is immensely proud of Will and his attitude to life, something that may be shaped by a strong sporting history that runs deep in the family.

“Will’s attitude is what gets him through and will stand him in good stead during his life. We are finding that even though some things are more difficult for him he is not fazed at all because he never thinks of himself as the slightest bit different to anyone else. When often his sighted peers give up on things Will is quietly determined, shows a lot of heart and will never give up. No excuses from Will, ever!

We are super proud and very inspired by his efforts. Will comes from a very sporting extended family with his father Craig having represented Tasmania in basketball, his grandmother is currently a world ranked and NZ/Australia record holder in Masters Swimmer, his grandfather was the captain of the NZ waterpolo team and still competes in squash and swimming, and Will’s aunt, Jacqui McKenzie, is an Ironman twice over having done the Taupo Ironman, in which she is competing again this year. His mother is an excellent supporter of everyone else!!

The Contact 1:2:1 for children and the Contact Cup for the elite athletes are the only races with space on the start line, waiting lists are in operation for all other races. INDEX