Throwing for gold: Judo athlete going to Paralympics

Legally blind Victoria Judo Club member Tim Rees is going to the Paralympics

Tim Rees throws a fellow member of the Victoria Judo Club

Some of Tim Rees’ Paralympic judo opponents won’t see him at all.

Others will have better vision than his, which is limited at best, as he’s legally blind.

It won’t matter, he says.

“If we are separated at any time, the match stops and we reset our grip.”

Rees’ level of vision is mostly peripheral. “It will be somewhere in the middle compared to the guys I’m up against.”

Matches start with a hold of each other’s gi to level the field. It’s the only difference between the Olympic and Paralympic judo formats.

“Once you’re in a full grip there’s not much disadvantage to having poor eyes because you can feel where your opponent is moving,” Rees said.

The 32-year-old trains with the Victoria Judo Club out of the Burnside Gorge Community Centre and competes in both formats. Even with his lack of eyesight, which is due to rod cone dystrophy, a rare form of macular degeneration, he still finished fifth at the Canadian nationals in his weight class last month.

But because there aren’t enough visually impaired judo athletes in Canada to populate a national tournament, he had to qualify for the upcoming London Paralympic Games through international tournaments.

He did that with fifth and seventh place finishes at the world Paralympic games in 2011 and 2010, respectively, and a bronze medal at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The bronze came just weeks after Rees moved to Victoria with his wife and two sons, now two and four years old, from Waterloo, Ont. He completed his doctorate in applied mathematics and came here to start his current job as a postdoctoral research fellow at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

His eyesight began deteriorating in his late teens and has declined more rapidly than expected. “There is a ray of hope to one day restore my sight through a research project currently underway, maybe five or 10 years down the road, but mine is a rarer condition under the broader scope of the research.”

In the meantime, Rees says it’s a pretty normal life. He’s the only visually impaired member of the 55-year-old Victoria Judo Club, but is adamant in his belief that judo is an ideal sport for visually impaired people to practise.

“It’s a very accommodating club and is a great way to spend time.”

Rees opens the London Paralympic judo competition with a qualifying round on Saturday, Sept. 1.

“I’ve faced many of the athletes in my category before, and they’re surprisingly strong. They have a great sense of balance,” Rees said.


Just Posted

Victoria painter splashes some colour on a dreary situation

Six-week long James Bay construction project gives Teresa Waclawik an impromptu canvas

Bike sharing program rolls into Saanich

According to staff, U-Bicycle plans to make between 75 and 100 bicycles available in Saanich.

Saanich Police speed reader board stolen

Traffic safety device taken from the 4700 block of Interurban Road

Man arrested, charged in connection with stabbing at Langford Lanes

Twenty-year-old Austin Bonner has been charged with aggravated assault

Group calls for limited access to backcountry roads near Jordan River

Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association says closures would limit misuse of woods

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

City of Victoria seeks artists to contribute to upcoming public exhibitions

Submissions for Commercial Alley gallery, bus shelter project due by April 9

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Plane filled with smoke lands at Nanaimo Airport

WestJet flight came in from Vancouver

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Central Saanich fire causes ‘extensive damage’ to home

All three Saanich Peninsula fire departments responded to a structure fire on… Continue reading

Rescued Comox canoer credits those ‘at the right place, at the right time’

James Milne was rescued in a hypothermic state Sunday near Goose Spit

Most Read