Seeing is believing, but sometimes believing in oneself is more important than physical sight.
Daniel Harris was one of several kids at Gulfport High School for a speed and agility clinic Saturday hosted by Gulfport native and Olympic medalist Brittney Reese.
Blind since birth, Daniel, 8, was grinding with the rest of the camp’s participants — not allowing anything, even the 100-degree heat, to get in his way.
“We came out here with his two older brothers,” said Daniel’s mom, Stacie Harris. “When he heard them say, ‘All of the kids on the field,’ he said, ‘Let’s go,’ and he got on the field.”
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A Paralympic coach
And off Daniel went, running drills and doing stretches with the rest of kids under the watchful eye of Reese’s coach, Jeremy Fischer, who has plenty of experience working with blind athletes.
“I work with Paralympic athletes, some with different levels of blindness, including some that are completely blind,” Fischer said. “I’ve worked with some blind athletes that have won gold medals — it’s pretty amazing the skills that they have and what we learn from human nature.”
One of the athletes Fischer has worked with is Lex Gillette, the blind long jumper who recently won the silver medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio. Gillette is Reese’s training partner.
Reese said she is grateful for the opportunity she’s had to work with blind athletes.
“We’re very competitive with each other,” she said. “We have a WWE belt that goes to the person that has the longest jump and I’ve been holding onto that belt for a while now.”
Fischer said he hopes Daniel will remember his experience.
“This is serendipitous that I’m getting to work with Daniel,” he said. “In six or eight years, he may be training to be a Paralympic athlete.”
A future competitor?
While Daniel’s father, Andrew Harris, stayed near his side, his mom watched her sons from the sidelines.
“I’m just so blown away and excited about this,” she said. “I just love that he’s so excited about this — (his brothers) Noah and Luke are excited, but Daniel is just so excited.”
She said Daniel is taking an all-business approach to his training.
“We were putting his Brittney shirt on him and he was like, ‘Hurry up, I don’t want to be late’ — how awesome is that?”
While Daniel’s training may have been a little different from that of the other participants, Reese said she hopes the learning experience is the same.
“He gets to interact with the other kids and there’s nothing that says he’s can’t participate,” she said. “He may be the next Paralympian and I’m glad we are able to give him this opportunity.”
Daniel said he learned a lot from Reese and Fischer.
“I’ve been doing leg lifts and running,” he said.
When asked if he wants to one day be a Paralympic athlete, Daniel said, “Yes.”