OMHS athlete plays paralympic goalball

By PATRICK THOMAS

Alex Richmond

OMHS sophomore Alex Richmond plays goalball in the Youth Paralympics Camp in the Netherlands in September. Photo courtesy of Mathilde Dusol.

Some people accept adverse circumstances.  Others take their challenges and pursue greatness.

Alex Richmond has been dealing with Cone-Rod Dystrophy, a deteriorating eye condition, since the age of seven. Now a 15-year-old sophomore at Oak Mountain High School, Alex has traveled to Oregon, Colorado and even the Netherlands to compete in Paralympics events. He will also compete with his team at the Lakeshore Foundation in Homewood at the beginning of November.

While his eye condition may have worsened since childhood, his familiarity with sports has created a smooth transition into his new career.  

“I have always played a little of everything,” Alex said. “Mainly the visual ball sports-baseball, football, and soccer. They were a part of my life before my eyes began to worsen.”

His athletic experience laid the groundwork in Paralympics sports such as track and field, swimming and his favorite, goalball. In this game, each player on a three-player squad is blindfolded and can only score or defend their goal based on their sense of touch or sound.  Metal rings are placed inside the ball, which can be heard or felt when rolled.

“The game is designed after a volleyball court but follows more closely to soccer rules since shootouts can occur,” Alex said, “but the ball must be rolled into the other defender’s net at each end of the floor in order to count as a score.”

Passion may be an understatement when describing Alex’s enthusiasm for sports. Like any athlete, Alex is aware of his emotions before any competition begins.

“Nerves are big,” Alex said with a smile. “The adrenaline is huge because you are practically blind. Therefore, your other senses are heavily magnified.”

Last year at Florida’s National High School Championships, Alex’s goalball team, consisting primarily of 12 and 13-year-olds, finished in third place against competitors up to age 21.

Along with team success, Alex was named an All-American in the long jump as an eighth grader and again in the shot put as a freshman.

His achievements even garnered him a recent selection to an International Paralympics Youth Camp in the Netherlands in September, a first taste of international travel that he hopes will culminate in competing in the World Paralympics in 2016.

“The most memorable aspect of traveling is that I get to meet people from all over America and the world,” Alex said.

Alex spends time not just on the field but also in his books.

“I am proud of the fact that Alex not only excels in sports, but he is a straight-A, honors student,” said his father, Richard Richmond. “Routinely he stays up till midnight after practice doing homework with a magnifying lens.”  This special magnifying lens allows Alex to read his schoolwork because of his condition.

Last summer Alex even left a Paralympics event in Colorado Springs, Colo., in order to compete in a National Science and Math Camp.

“He had already set a world swimming record, and all his teammates and friends told him, ‘Alex please don’t go, you’re going to break so many records,’” said Cindy Richmond, Alex’s mother.

Alex is an anomaly for a boy his age.  Sparked by ambition toward continual success, his athletic achievements and scholastic accolades should make him complacent. Fortunately, though, Alex doesn’t understand what complacency means.

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