Being legally blind wasn’t going to stop Charlotte Brown from accomplishing her dream of becoming a successful pole vaulter. On Saturday, she reached the apex of her athletic career to date, winning a bronze medal at the Texas track and field state championships.
Two years ago, Brown came in eighth place (out of nine) after being unable to clear the 11-foot height in three attempts. Last year, Brown cleared the 11-foot height but couldn’t top the 11-foot, 6-inch bar, tying for fourth place. This time around, however, the 11-foot, 6-inch height was no match for the Emory Rains High School senior, who cleared it on her second try.
Brown was unable to clear the 11-foot, 9-inch height in three attempts—the gold medalist, Sydney King, won after vaulting over a 12-foot, 3-inch bar—but her medal was already in the bag by that point. Two other vaulters failed to clear the 11-foot, 6-inch bar, guaranteeing Brown nothing short of a bronze medal.
The Associated Press captured video of Brown’s medal-winning efforts:
According to the Associated Press, Brown was born with normal vision, but she developed cataracts at an early age, resulting in multiple operations. Her vision began to deteriorate at age 11, and though she had pinhole vision as of 2013, she is now legally blind. “While not faced with total darkness, her mother described what remains as a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of mixed up shades of light and dark,” the AP explained.
To compete as a pole vaulter, Brown is meticulous about counting her steps in the lead-up to her jump, and listens for a beeper planted on the mat that lets her know when to plant her pole. She shared the step-by-step details of her approach with espnW before last year’s state meet, explaining how a coach will whistle to guide her toward the center of the box where she needs to plant her pole. Before doing anything, her service dog, Vador, guides her on a walk-through of the course.
As you can see to the right, Vador was able to join Brown on the podium stand Saturday to relish in her accomplishment.
“One thing I always thought about this story, so to speak, was that it really wasn’t about me,” Brown told reporters after earning her medal. “It was about everybody that struggles with something.”
Brown is set to join Purdue University’s track team as a walk-on this fall. Her older brother, Lachlan, is a sprinter for the Boilermakers, according to the
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.