BMX rider Noah Johns was born with dominant optic atrophy, a genetic vision impairment that classifies him as legally blind. Despite his disability, you will still catch him on the track at Maitland Tenambit BMX Club every Tuesday night raring and ready to ride.
Johns’ condition means the ten-year-old can only see approximately two metres ahead of him at best, everything else appears as a blur. Despite his condition, Noah has taken on BMX with the same verve as any new rider does, and his father Paul – who suffers from the same condition – told BMX Australia this week about his son’s determination to get out and enjoy riding his BMX.
“Noah wasn’t nervous at all to start riding BMX, if he want’s something, he’s going to go after it and he’s actually a really good BMX rider,” said Paul Johns.
“We have tried a couple of other sports like soccer and cricket, but he didn’t like them, BMX he really enjoys.”
“He only started riding about three months ago now, and without any proper coaching or training sessions, he has managed to deliver some great performances against the other kids in his age group, despite his condition.”
Johns rides gates on Tuesday nights and competes on weekends. Father Paul has described the local BMX community at the club as extremely helpful towards their family so far.
“Many of the mothers around the track as well as the rest of the younger riders have been really helpful since we joined the club,” explained Johns.
The family from Thornton, including Noah’s mother Melinda and Paul’s guide dog Keith, have also started travelling to other nearby clubs. In what is a true team effort to get Noah on a bike, his parents impressed that having a set routine helped the smooth running of a day at the track.
“We travel to Lake Macquarie BMX club a fair bit now on the weekend, it’s not too far away and it gives Noah the chance to experience different types of tracks and improve his skills,” Paul Johns continued.
“His brain just takes over before he even hits the track, because of his vision impairment he will memorise things and rely a lot on routine. Routine is very important.”
Added Melinda, “Paul and I will make sure our tent is at the same spot each time we visit the track, just to make things as easy as possible for Noah.”
The family is currently looking at finding a coach and sponsorship for Noah, with youngster aiming high and holding aspirations to race at next year’s Australian national championships in Bunbury.
“We are so excited for Noah, even Keith my guide dog gets excited for him as well. You wouldn’t think he’s legally blind, especially when you see him out there on the track,” said Paul.
“Our hope is that in the future there is more consideration put into disabled BMX racing.
“The Olympics have disabled categories (Paralympics) so it would be great to see the same thing at a local BMX level.”
Let young Noah serve as a reminder to all of us that our only limitations are the ones we set for ourselves.
Best of luck on your BMX journey Noah, welcome to the #BMXAfamily!