Meet Kyle Coon! Learn more about his journey to the Olympics and amazing story of courage!

By Kyle Coon

Greetings 303 friends, fans and family! My name is Kyle Coon and I’m a totally blind Professional Triathlete. (Wow, no matter how many times I say or write that I still have a hard time believing that I somehow managed to make my hobby and passion into something resembling a career.)
While not a Colorado native, Colorado has been my permanent home since 2016 and it’s been where my heart calls home since I first visited to learn to ski in the early to mid 2000s. From 2016-2018 I lived in Carbondale, just down valley from Aspen, but at the beginning of 2019 I made the move to Colorado Springs for the opportunity to better pursue my Pro Triathlete lifestyle/career. But before we get into that let’s back up a moment, because some of you are probably wondering “Who is this guy?”

When I was ten months old I was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood eye cancer called Bilateral Sporadic Retinoblastoma. Essentially I had cancer in both eyes with no family history. I underwent an intense treatment plan—consisting of chemo and radiation therapies, and other various clinical and experimental trials—which would go on to last several years as the cancer would regress and then come roaring back with a vengeance. Eventually the cancer, and the effects of the treatment, damaged my eyes beyond repair. So my family made the decision to remove my eyes which was really the only sure-fire way to beat the cancer once and for all. My left eye was removed when I was five and my right when I was six leaving me totally blind.

I went through a rough time as a newly blind kid. I didn’t understand “why” this had happened to me. Fortunately though my parents did their best to treat me no differently than they would have if I could see. Yes, I still had chores and was expected to bring home good grades from school. I was also very fortunate to meet a world-class blind athlete just a few months after I lost my sight. His name? Erik Weihenmayer—most well known for becoming the first blind man to climb Mt Everest and the rest of the Seven Summits. (At the time I met Erik he hadn’t yet climbed Everest and had only climbed three of the Seven Summits.)

Erik and I met and Erik encouraged me that just because I was blind didn’t mean I had to stop doing things I loved. It didn’t mean I had to give up being a kid. I just needed to become a bit more creative in how I went about my life. He suggested something to help me focus and be active at the same time—rock climbing. I’d go on to become a competitive rock climber, along with two of my sisters, and along the way get into numerous other activities.

In 2004, I learned to downhill ski. In 2006, I hiked the Ancascocha Trail into Machu Picchu. In 2007, I climbed and summited Mt Kilimanjaro. I also went on to climb a few Colorado 14ers and some Cascade volcanoes. I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2013 with a degree in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication and was ready to take on the world.

I went into the post college workforce with the excellent millennial mentality of “I’m going to apply for every job CEO and above.” When that didn’t work I lowered my expectation to “Upper level Management and above.” When that still didn’t work I made my way down the corporate ladder until I applied for a batboy job at a grocery store and didn’t get the job.

I was frustrated, unemployed, several thousand dollars in debt and felt awful since I’d packed on 25ish lbs post college. I was a year removed from graduating and I’d just about lost hope. I knew I needed to do something to distract myself so I decided I’d start running, an activity I normally associated with punishment and agony. But running was exactly what I needed. It was a problem to solve and a way to reach out to the community to make new friends.

My first running guide was an ER doctor whom I connected with through a website that partnered sighted guides with blind runners. Funnily enough though he’d never actually guided a blind guy before so we both went into it as an experiment. Mike and I started running together once or twice a week experimenting with various guiding methods. We entered some short 5ks, 10ks and half marathons and then took on the Disney World Goofy Challenge—Disney Half Marathon on Saturday and Marathon on Sunday. After that Mike mentioned that he thought I could do a triathlon, maybe even an Ironman some day. Mike had just completed Kona a couple of months after we’d started running together so I saw how cool the sport was.

This was the beginning of 2015 when I decided that I’d become a triathlete. Mike taught me to swim, we did thousands of miles on my tandem bike and we continued running together. In 2016, Mike and I took on my first Ironman in Boulder because I love Colorado and my family had recently moved to the Roaring Fork Valley so Boulder was an easy race for them to travel to to spectate. Mike and I somehow stumble bumbled our way to a 15:47:11 finish on Pearl Street and despite being more tired and sore than I’d ever been in my life I was hooked.

My personal life was a mess at the time and I wasn’t particularly happy with my desk job (yes I did eventually find my way into the world of the employed) so I picked up my life and moved to Carbondale and rented a room in my parents house. I got plugged into the local running community and worked on my run. I even found some people willing/crazy enough to pilot my tandem. And so I set my sights on doing another Ironman, this time Ironman Arizona 2017.

I completed Ironman Arizona 2017 in 11:46:43 becoming only the ninth person who is blind or visually impaired to break the 12 hour mark at the 140.6 distance. But that wasn’t good enough I set my sights higher and began pushing myself to do better. Along the way I hired a coach and started attending training and skills camps. I was recruited to be a member of the first all blind/visually impaired stoker tandem relay team to take part in the infamous “Race Across America” racing from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, MD in less than nine days. I even dipped my toe into the waters of the International Triathlon Union circuit competing in a couple races including taking a Silver Medal at a World Cup.

Then in November 2018, my guide—Alan Greening—and I set out to do something that hadn’t been done before. We raced to a finish of 10:59:17 at Ironman Arizona becoming only the third person with a visual impairment to break the 11 hour mark in an Ironman, but becoming the first person who is totally blind to do so.

I’ve certainly come a long way from that scared seven year old newly blind kid and some might say that I’ve reached almost as high as you can as a totally blind triathlete. But in August 2018 the International Paralympic Committee announced that male Visually Impaired Triathlon would become part of the slate of events at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. And in October I was accepted to become an official member of the USA Paratriathlon Resident Team. So on January 7, 2019 I made the move to Colorado Springs and took up residence at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with the goal of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics in the sport of Paratriathlon and I can think of no better audience to want to share my journey with than you, the 303 Triathlon/endurance community.

So will you join me in following my progress on the #roadtotokyo as I #trifortokyo?

Blind Colorado athlete sets Ironman record

From 9News
by Bryan Wendland

Kyle Coon has been totally blind since age 6. That hasn’t kept him from rock climbing at 9, climbing Kilimanjaro at 15, and, oh yeah, becoming the fastest totally blind person to ever finish an Ironman race.

KUSA — When Kyle Coon lost his sight at age 6, he says he got depressed.

But that didn’t last long.

“I actually became a competitive rock climber when I was 8 or 9-years-old,” he said.

He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro when he was 15, captained his high school wrestling team for two years and started doing triathlons a few years ago.

“It’s definitely become a passion and a real lifestyle, and just because I’m doing it blind, it’s just, you know – I’m just any other, any other athlete out there trying to have fun and compete against myself and fellow athletes,” he said.

Then, in 2016, he did his first Ironman race: 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running. It all has to be finished under 17 hours.

“It took me just under 16 hours to complete the full thing, and I think I walked the entire marathon,” Coon said.

Read the full article

Kyle Coon Continues to Excel

Kyle Coon has had quite a 2018 season.

In October he won the Silver medal and the ITU Paratriathlon World Cup Race.

Article here

 

In November he was named as one of three Parathletes to be added to the USA Resident Team at the Colorado Springs OTC.

Article here

 

And, just this past weekend, Kyle and guide Alan Greening, finish IMAZ in under 11 hours!

Video from 12news.com in Phoenix, AZ  here

 

 

 

U.S. Athletes Earn Three Golds at Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Paratriathlon World Cup

SARASOTA, Fla. — Three U.S. paratriathletes collected gold medals Sunday morning at the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Paratriathlon World Cup, an elite race held as part of the two-day Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon Festival at Nathan Benderson Park. U.S. athletes earned nine total medals on the day, standing out among a field of competitors from 17 countries.

The race was shifted from a triathlon (swim-bike-run) to a duathlon (run-bike-run) after heightened algae levels in the lake due to recent weather conditions forced a cancellation of the swim leg. The adjusted course featured a 2.5-kilometer run, 18.3-kilometer bike and another 5-kilometer run.

Elizabeth Baker (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) claimed the win in the women’s PTVI class, crossing the line with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, 12 seconds. It was a close finish with U.S. teammate Amy Dixon (Encinitas, Calif.), who took silver in 1:07:40. Completing the all-American podium was Eliza Cooper (New York, N.Y.) in 1:10:23.

“I’m proud of the race. I had nothing left,” Baker said. “Amy gave me a run for my money on that one. And it was fun having Eliza, a great newbie, in the race. It’s just really nice to see the sport growing and people getting faster, and newbies coming in in the United States.”

Kyle Coon (Carbondale, Colo.) collected his first international paratriathlon medal with a silver in the men’s PTVI division. Coon’s time of 58:47 was less than a minute behind the division winner, Yuichi Takahashi of Japan. Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md.) was just 33 seconds off the podium for the PTVI men, finishing fourth in 1:00:28.

Adam Popp (Arlington, Va.) stormed to the win in the men’s PTS2 division with a time of 1:15:05. While Popp earned two ITU World Cup medals last season, including a bronze here in Sarasota, Sunday’s race marked his first gold. Cahin Perez (Christiana, Tenn.) also reached the podium for the PTS2 men, taking bronze with a time of 1:22:57.

“This was a good capper to the season,” Popp said. “It went well, and it was an improvement from last year. I’m happy with my first win on the ITU circuit.”

 

Complete article and full results here

 

Blind Triathletes to Attend 3 Day Camp at US Olympic Training Center

By USA Triathlon

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon and the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) have partnered to host the first-ever paratriathlon camp in Colorado Springs dedicated to athletes with visual impairments. Ten triathletes and ten guides from across the U.S. will travel to the U.S. Olympic Training Center to participate in the three-day camp, set for Thursday, August 23, through Saturday, August 25.

The camp will focus on the para-specific dynamics of swimming, biking and running, as well as other aspects of triathlon performance (basic nutrition, transitions, goal-setting, etc.). Coaches will include seven-time ITU Paratriathlon World Champion Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.), 2017 USA Paratriathlon Coach of the Year and Paralympic Head Coach for Team USA, Mark Sortino (Boise, Idaho), and USA Triathlon certified coach, tandem pilot and triathlete Amanda Leibovitz (Bellingham, Wash.).

Visual impairment is one of six paratriathlon categories recognized by the International Paralympic Committee and includes athletes who are totally blind and athletes who are partially sighted but legally blind. Triathletes with visual impairments compete alongside a guide. During the swim, the guide and athlete are tethered together — usually at the thigh or hip. The athlete then rides behind his or her guide, or pilot, on a tandem bike before finishing the race on foot with a tether connecting athlete and guide.

The following athletes, among others, will be available for media interviews:

Lindsay Ball (Benton, Maine) represented the U.S. at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in alpine skiing. She is a two-time U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing national champion and was the 2012 Winter Park IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup bronze medalist. Ball completed her first triathlon in 2010, and is now beginning to pursue the sport competitively.

Kyle Coon (Carbondale, Colo.) has been a triathlete since 2015. He has completed three long-course (IRONMAN 70.3) and two ultra-distance (IRONMAN) triathlons, in addition to several sprint and Olympic-distance events. Coon’s best long-course finish came at IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder last year, when he won the men’s physically challenged division covering the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run in 5 hours, 11 minutes, 9 seconds.

Michael Somsan (Gilbert, Ariz.) is a retired U.S. Army First Lieutenant who lost his vision to a gunshot wound in 1995. Somsan was the top finisher in the men’s physically changed division at the 2016 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. He has also completed IRONMAN Arizona (2015), IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside (2016) and several sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons.

MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES: 
Media representatives are invited to capture coverage of the camp and/or conduct interviews with participants to help raise awareness about the sporting opportunities available to individuals who are blind and visually impaired, and how these athletes’ lives are being positively impacted through sport.

A tentative list of opportunities is outlined below. Training sessions may be altered depending on weather and scheduling. Please contact Caryn Maconi (USA Triathlon) or Courtney Patterson (USABA) if you would like to attend any of the training sessions.

Thursday, Aug. 23:
4-6 p.m. Run Session (Roads TBD)

Friday, Aug. 24:
8-11 a.m. Bike Skills/Ride (Roads TBD)
1-3 p.m. Swim Session – Outdoor Pool at U.S. Olympic Training Center*

Saturday, Aug. 25:

8-11 a.m. Bike Skills/Ride (Roads TBD)
1-3 p.m. Swim Session – Outdoor Pool at U.S. Olympic Training Center*
3-4 p.m. Transition Skills (Roads/OTC)

Read full article