Jono Goerlach, 32, Canberra, Australia
Tell us a bit about your condition and your symptoms.
At age 15 I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type 2. This condition combines both Retinitis Pigmentosa, and slight-to-moderate hearing loss, which I have had since birth and wear hearing aids to combat this.
What is your current situation, what do you do?
At present, my primary focus is on being a full-time Triathlete. I've been involved in the sport for almost 3 years, building towards my end goal of qualifying for a Paralympic Games. In an effort to give myself the best opportunity to achieve this goal I chose to move to Canberra one year ago where my coach and his triathlon squad are based.
Since moving to Canberra I have also signed up to a double bachelor degree at the University of Canberra, studying Sport & Exercise Science/Sports Management.
On top of these two time-consuming responsibilities I work part-time as a Soft-Tissue Therapist to help pay the bills and maintain at least a little social life.
What was your biggest hurdle and how did you over come it?
My biggest hurdle was around the age of 26 when I reached a point in my life where the reality of my impending blindness started to come to fruition - and I wasn't even prepared for it. Initially, admitting that I was depressed and dealing with anxiety was the first step to getting back on track. The next step was to find something I was passionate about, set goals to work towards, so I could have something to focus on - sport was my passion before my diagnosis, and sport was the passion that would be the answer to moving forward. Since returning to sport my life has completely changed, to the point where I feel like I've lived two lives. I'm only just getting started :)
What are your goals for the future?
My main goal is to represent Australia at the Paralympic Games. Up until October 2014 I was focused on Rio 2016, but unfortunately that opportunity has been taken away simply due to fact that our sport has five types of disability but only three types/classes were offered a medal event. The positive, though, is that I do have an opportunity to go to the following Paralympics in Tokyo 2020.
I am also driven to finish my degrees so I can start working with athletes with a disability in areas of sporting development/management. I am also passionate about reaching out to the wider vision-impaired community to educate them and their supporters about the many opportunities there are available to them - having a disability is an opportunity to find your true abilities.
What would be your best bit of of advice for others going on a similar journey?
Find your passion and let it take over your life. Having that focus will produce more opportunities than you could imagine - life is defined by opportunities, even the ones you miss.
If you'd like to follow Jono's journey to triathlon greatness follow his Facebook page here.