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Competing in Crashed Ice as a Visually Impaired Person - the story of Nathaniel Noё

My name is Nathan, I am 27 and I have been visually impaired for 14 years. I can still see around 15% which allows me to navigate around the city (I still use my cane the majority of the time anyway), partially see faces, and use my phone or my laptop visually if I have to (but it causes a lot of tension and pain in my eyes if I do it for too long)
Nathan on the bus, smiling, during Crashed Ice period, with 3 other players next to him

The Accident

I became visually impaired when I was 13. It was an accident I had as a teenager. My friend and I wanted to conduct an experiment with some chemicals we easily bought at the drug store. But we didn’t really think everything through. You were supposed to shake the bottle a couple of times, throw it aside and it would explode in an amateur firework manner. But I was overexcited and very enthusiastic about it - I shook it too much and before I knew it, it exploded in my face.

Eventually, my friend took me to my mom and she, in turn, brought me to the hospital. My mom was terrified because she had already seen a similar incident several years prior when her brother got chemicals in his eyes while working in a garage.

After getting my eyes cleaned for 16 hours straight, the doctors concluded that my eyes had been damaged too much and informed me I had to get used to the cane and a guide dog. For 2 years, I was legally blind. After that, my vision started improving and went up to 50%.

Hockey and Crashed Ice

I’ve loved hockey for a long time and my sudden vision loss was a big issue. But when my vision went up to 50% after 2 years, I picked up hockey again.

But I’ve also been fascinated with speed and the more extreme side of winter sports, so, that led me to Crashed Ice which for me is a perfect combination of ice hockey and free running. Crashed Ice is a world tour in the winter extreme sporting event organized by Red Bull, which involves downhill skating in an urban environment, on a track with steep turns and high vertical drops. There are a lot of rules but to put it simply, you go downhill on the ice skates, sometimes reaching the speed of 80 km/hour, and navigating through different obstacles. And if that is not hard enough on its own, you also have to race with 3 other people. So, I tried that out and was placed 3rd in the Netherlands. I was around 18 at the time and I was competing with sighted people while being visually impaired.

Unfortunately, back then I was not allowed to participate in the world championship because only the top two racers could. But next year was a bigger success: I got first and then I got my first sponsored trip to Niagara Falls in Canada. After that, I competed in different countries on various tracks.

Nathan and 3 other participants on the Crashed Ice track, 2 are in the air mid-jump and 2 are on the ice

But about 4 years ago things for me changed for the worst and I had to stop but Crashed Ice will forever be in my heart and maybe one day I will be able to do it again.

What now?

Now I am a student, majoring in psychology. In addition to that, I’ve recently joined the Hable team, helping them understand the blind community more in-depth and improve the Hable One keyboard to its perfect version.

Monday, 15 November 2021