“To those who doubted me, look at me now.” Meet the blind record-breaking runner
Louzanne Coetzee doesn’t need to see the track to dominate it. The Paralympic athlete is breaking records despite only beginning her running career seven years ago at university. “When I started, people told me I was very slow,” Coetzee says. She was born with Leber congenital amaurosis, a condition that results in undeveloped retinas and loss of vision. Yet Coetzee still leaves dust in her wake.
In 2016, she accomplished the unthinkable. Coetzee broke the world record in the T11 category for the 5 000m. This made her the first blind female athlete to run this distance in under 20 minutes. On top of that, Coetzee holds the 800m record in Africa. “To run without being able to see feels normal to me,” she says. Her partner Xavier Adams guides her direction. “When people see Xavier, they either think he’s in the wrong race or he’s there to beat me,” Coetzee says. “But he’s actually the one who helps me win.” Their relationship is built on trust – Adams’ support is key to Coetzee’s career. Friends off the track, they propel each other to success. “It feels like my win as well because we’re a team,” Adams says.
Coetzee is currently in position to compete at the 2020 Paralympics and challenge herself with marathons in the future. “To those who doubted me, look at me now,” she says. “Nothing is impossible.” Alongside each other, Coetzee and Adams make a powerful duo. We all have our strengths. And when we work together, we can cross the finish line victorious.