Blind athlete sets record on hike through Grand Canyon

Blind athlete sets record on hike through Grand Canyon 

Undated photo provided by Shawn Cheshire (pictured), who just set a world record for the round trip trail crossing of the Grand Canyon by a blind person. Also shown are her guides: Sara Schulting-Kranz (l), Jesse Crandall (2nd from L) and Scott Drum (r). EFE-EPA/Courtesy Shawn Cheshire/Editorial Use Only/No Sales

Phoenix, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- US Paralympic athlete Shawn Cheshire set a world record for being the first blind woman to walk the 42-mile (67.6 km) round trip trail crossing of the Grand Canyon, a hike categorized as one of the world’s most dangerous.

The 11-time national champion in Tandem Cycling began her trek on Sunday at midnight with three friends, who served as her guides and on Monday just after midnight she set the world time record – thus making it into the Guinness Book of World Records – for the crossing by a blind person of 24 hours and 15 minutes.

Michael Mena, one of the sponsors of Cheshire’s hike, told EFE that she accepted the challenge and met it thanks to her great perseverance, adding that she had prepared for it for an unspecified time.

“It was difficult because she is 100 percent blind, but thanks to her guides and the orientation with verbal signals and the sound of bells that they placed on their backs, Cheshire could go on and finish the crossing,” he said.

Mena, who works with various professional Paralympic athletes, said that Cheshire, who will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympiad, feels very proud of her achievement.

Cheshire, who lost her sight in 2009 while working as a paramedic, said that she listened to the bells, to the verbal cues from her three guides and also to instructions specifically where to place her feet, since she had to rely on those signals to be able cover the arduous course, during which she and her companions experienced all sorts of weather.

Born in Texas in 1975, Cheshire served in the US Army as a helicopter mechanic for eight years, but, due to an injury, she was given an honorable discharge. After that, she worked on an ambulance in Syracuse, New York, until at age 34 she slipped on the ice on a snowy day and banged her head, causing a brain injury that resulted in the loss of her vision.

Severely depressed after losing her sight, the hospital she went to for therapy recommended physical activity and it was thus that Cheshire began running with a guide and, later, started up with tandem cycling.

Cheshire says that she wanted her trek to be challenging and historic but also to inspire others who face similar limitations in their lives.