Martial arts: Shadow kicker
Vision is crucial in most every sport known to man.
To excel you have to be able to see — unless you are 13-year-old Collin Henderson of Craven County.
Despite being visually impaired, Henderson competes and wins in the sport of Taekwondo as a student at the New Bern Taekwondo Academy.
Henderson was born with an eye disease called Achromatopsia.
Achromatopsia is the absence or non-functioning of cone cells in the eye, which determines how well you can see in light and how well you can see colors.
According to the American Associtaion for Pediatric Opthalmalogy and Strabismus (aapos.com), Achromatopsia occurs in 1 out of 33,000 people and 1 in 40,000 live births.
“Collin was about 18-months old before we found out completely what was wrong,” Collin’s father Dale Henderson said.
“Collin has no cones on his eyes whatsoever. Everything he sees is in black and white or shades of grey. He senses a lot more than he ever sees and he sees a movement and shadows and reacts to that.”
Henderson, even with this low vision, still competes in the regular division of Taekwondo as opposed to the special needs division.
“He was fighting in a tournament in Elizabeth City against an ordinary kid and Collin knocked him out,” his Taekwondo Master Lisa DeJesus said.
Henderson smiles and beams when asked about his KO.
“Yeah I think he thought I was just a normal kid, he didn’t even know I couldn’t see,” he said.
Henderson says that Taekwondo is something that he enjoys because he can get his aggravations out and because of the quietness and concentration it takes.
“A lot of other sports like soccer, which I tried to play, they are so loud with the crowds yelling and cheering, but in Taekwondo, it’s so quiet on the mat that I can hear the movements better and I can be better at it,” Henderson said.
Hearing air, seeing shadows and relying on his senses of motion coming toward him are how Henderson compensates for his poor vision.
DeJesus recalls when originally taking Henderson into the Taekwondo school, the masters tested all of the kids to see how far they could get to them before the kids realized they were coming at them.
“We told them to all close their eyes and raise their hands when they felt us near them,” she said.
“Collin raised his hands before we could get within about 15 feet of him.”
Henderson is heading to the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Taekwondo Nationals in Florida to compete during the first week of July.
The school originally signed Henderson up to compete in the special needs division of the tournament with it being a large national venue, but is hearing now that Henderson may be too advanced and have to continue competing in the regular division.
“Taekwondo has really provided my son with self-esteem and given him something he enjoys and is good at and I am so proud of him,” Dale Henderson said.
The AAU Nationals begin June 30 and last through July 5.