Picture Source: Cie Stroud / For the Times of Trenton
“If you really want it You will find a way. If you don’t You‘ll find an Excuse” is the inspiring message that this 35-year old visually impaired has for the world.
Born with a congenital defect that impaired his vision, Jack Chen lost his sight altogether during a botched eye operation at the age of 16. But this could not stop him from achieving greatness. he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Harvard University, a master’s degree in computer science from UC Berkeley and a law degree from Fordham University. He now works as a patent and trademark attorney at Baker Botts LLP in New York City, and has also participated in 5 triathlons including 2 Ironman competitions .
During his marathons, blind triathlete Jack Chen dodges potholes, slams into other runners in crowds, gets hit in the face by tree branches but he keeps on going.
He didn’t know how to swim. While most people learn how to swim by watching someone else, and athletes often improve their technique and form by reviewing videos, Chen had to teach himself, with text as his guide. “It was a significant challenge,” he said.
Chen said as a blind triathlete, he must constantly rely on all his other senses to constantly get feedback about what is happening on the course. That means staying alert at all times, which requires a great deal of mental energy. When swimming, he reaches out to touch his guide every couple of strokes to make sure he’s not drifting away. “It surely messes up the stroke and my efficiency. I’m slower and more tired when the swimming is done,” he says. When running, he has an instant to adjust to road conditions such as potholes, sudden dips or a rise.
“Really, it’s all about being ready for the unexpected, “When something bad happens, you just pick yourself up and keep going, because the goal is to keep your eyes on the prize at the end of the race, just like in life.” he says.
For him, preparation means waking up before 5 a.m. on workdays to run on the treadmill and ride his bike, which is mounted on a trainer, for one or two hours. Then he hops on the train and goes to New York for work, often returning home after 7 p.m.. On days when he swims, he takes an earlier train and swims laps in a city pool. On weekends, he does longer training sessions with his guide, running outside and riding a tandem bike.