Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Visually Impaired Classification

Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Visually Impaired Classification

Did you know Paralympic athletes get tested on how blind they are?
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I am currently sitting on a plane traveling from Hanover à the Netherlands for the weekend. I left today (Saturday) and will be back on campus on Monday afternoon just in time to start studying for my finals. I know this sounds irrational and you’re right, it is. but if I don’t go on this trip I can’t ski this season, because every Paralympic athlete needs to get something called a classification. Classifying is a way of basically ranking every disability to make varying degrees of these disabilities comparable. Classification is the reason I (someone who is legally blind but can see some things) can ski against someone who is totally blind and it can be deemed fair. Essentially I am flying to the Netherlands so that I can be reassured for the 10,000th time that yes, indeed, I am still blind and no my vision has not gotten better or worse in the last three years. However, unlike myself, many of my competitors do have degenerative vision lose. For them, classification is incredibly important because their vision gets worse over time, and therefore their classification can often change.

Visually impaired classification is broken down into three categories; B1, B2, and B3. B1 athletes are totally blind and compete wearing completely blacked out goggles. B2 skiers are slightly more sighted than B1 athletes, and B3 skiers are the most sighted of the visually impaired athletes. Each division has different factors, which basically refers to a percent of the actual time it takes the athlete to ski the race. B1 athletes who have the least amount of vision might, for example, have a factor of 0.55 for some races, meaning only 55% of that athlete’s raw time is considered. On the other hand, a B3 may have a factor of around 0.85 meaning 85% of that athlete’s time is considered. The difference in factors is what makes the times between the two athletes comparable and ideally competitive.

Visually impaired classification can get a bit controversial because, unlike some of the other disabilities, eye sight isn’t quite as straight forward. For instance, it’s pretty easy to look at an amputee and know whether he is missing his leg above or below the knee. It is a little more difficult to evaluate someone who is legally blind and determine just how much that person can actually see. Vision conditions are so diverse but in order for classification to work an arbitrary line must be drawn to categorize visual impairments. Consequently, it is impossible to make everyone happy even though the system is designed to help.

There are plenty of athletes, including myself that fall unfortunately close to that arbitrary cut off line between classes. There are a wide range of vision disorders in each category, and while being at the lower end of one may be portrayed as a disadvantage, I like to think of it as a challenge to be the best athlete I can be. Classification is something every Paralympic athlete knows well, and while it will never be perfect, it is necessary and a crucial part of Paralympic sport.

Cover Image Credit: youtube.com

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To The Equestrian Judge That Tried To Break My Spirit

You may have won the battle, but you didn't win the war.

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There is a special thrill as a child being in the saddle for the first time. This animal delivered to me a whole new perspective of the world in all of its glory. I lived for the lessons these horses silently taught me — to be responsible, to cherish all life, to be brave in the face of adversity, and the list continues. Most of the valuable lessons I hold dear were taught by the horses I have had the honor of riding, leasing, and owning.

I wouldn't be the person I am today without these horses I adore so much, but I would be wrong if I didn't say that the coaches who taught me how to ride and the judges I have asked for advice didn't teach me valuable lessons as well. Believe it or not, even the judge who laughed in my face and insulted me showed me a crucial lesson as well. There will always be someone who doesn't like me no matter how hard I try to impress everyone.

I competed at a three-day long horse show during the summer when I was eighteen back in 2015, and I was excited because after three years of hard work Boomer and I were finally competitive to take on the big and burly quarter horses that reigned over the arena. Boomer is an Arabian horse, a relatively uncommon breed to show at this particular show and even more unusual to compete in the specific sport of Ranch Horse Pleasure.

Ranch Horse Pleasure is an equestrian sport that was made for every rider and horse. If your horse wasn't cut out for the thrilling sport of Reining and wasn't slow enough to be competitive in Western Pleasure, then Ranch Horse Pleasure was the perfect sport for avid riders. This fun and new sport was what Boomer and I planned to compete in as a stepping stone to reining, and given his almost lazy nature, he was pretty good at it.

Boomer waiting patiently for me at the gate. Photo Credit: Danielle Weeks

Although this particular horse show wasn't a top-level horse show, the competition was still very tough. Classes are often full of horses worth tens of thousands of dollars in bloodlines and training, but Boomer had proven his worth before even though I got him for free and did a large portion of his training on my own for years before this show.

The professional training Boomer did have, was earned by me through hours upon hours of saddling up horses, feeding horses, cleaning stalls, working horses, and doing other tasks around the barn for my trainers to earn training time and lessons. The work was difficult especially while I was working two different jobs, and going to junior college full time, but it was worth it seeing how well my trainers polished Boomer into an even better horse.

On the first day of competition, Boomer performed well, and the judge for the first day scored us well above my expectations. Afterward, I asked this judge for feedback, and she kindly complimented us while pointing out some criticisms she noticed to help us do better. I took note of this for the next day, and after I fed, watered, and cleaned up after twenty or so horses, Boomer and I practiced for the second day of showing and nailed our pattern. I knew we were going to do great, and I was thrilled to perform tomorrow!

But after our performance on the second day, we received a strange score. Boomer performed better than yesterday, but we received a lower rating. After my class, I took care of Boomer and the other horses and went to the office to look at my scorecard. I figured, if the judge saw anything I didn't feel, he would have written it down on the card.

When I arrived, I could see the judge putting the scorecards into the binder for the day, and I was happy I could catch him before he left for the night. When I walked up to him, I introduced myself and shook his hand, and he was very polite until I described the horse I was riding today.

The immediate change in attitude this man had was so noticeable it almost made me hesitate to continue, but I still asked, "Is there anything you saw today that I could improve on with my horse?"

Boomer and I at the three-day horse show. Taken on the second day. Photo Credit: David Weeks

Apparently, my question was funny for him, because he laughed at me as if I told him a joke, but not before telling me, "Yeah, get rid of that crazy Arab and buy yourself a real ranch horse."

My jaw dropped, and all I could do was watch him walk away from me with an astounded look on my face. Shock turned in to horror because I knew this man's dislike of my horse cost me the horse show. The thousands of hours and dollars I had spent to get to this point, was gone. None of my hard work had mattered because of this one judge who decided my horse and I didn't deserve to be here.

I dragged my feet back to the barn because it was beginning to get dark and the horses needed to be fed and watered for the night. I still wore a dumbfounded look all the way to my horse's stall, but I looked at Boomer and saw he was already watching me. When I looked at him, he let out a soft breath and walked up to the door and waited for me to pet him. I doubt he knew I was going to come into his stall and sob into his mane, but I did, because no matter how cruel people are at least Boomer's hair is thick enough to soak up my emotions.

The last day of the show went well and the judge was fair at. Unfortunately, with the averaged scores for the weekend, the second score I received by the terrible judge booted me out of the top five, and I lost out on earning a championship buckle and ribbon.

I thought long and hard about continuing to show Boomer in Ranch Riding and Reining, and I thought, maybe he was right. Perhaps I didn't belong in the sport. I saw the glares. I heard the comments that my friends and I overheard. I know the things people told my Mother, because, "[she] let her daughter ride an Arabian? Don't you know they're crazy?!" Making my Mother feel uncomfortable to be at this horse show as well.

Making my Mother uncomfortable, and the terrible judge affirmed to me that I would never return to the three-day show that gave me such a bad experience.

However, a year later I competed for the first time in Reining at a horse show series consisting of four horse shows over four months. At the end of it, Boomer and I earned a Championship and Reserve Championship buckle in our two classes. Boomer was the only Arabian to compete at the series. The year after that in 2017, we won three Reserve Championships in Ranch Horse Pleasure at a different show.

So, nice try to the judge who told me my horse and I didn't belong in this sport. I will continue to ride my 'crazy Arabian' in Reining and Ranch Riding shows and we will tear up the arena and clean up the ribbons and buckles because we have done it before and after we experienced your terrible judgment. I'll admit that you may have won the battle, but you didn't win the war. Boomer and I are not done yet, and your bad attitude isn't stopping us.

Boomer and I with our amazing Reining trainer Steven Allen after we earned our Reserve Champion buckle in Oroville California. My other amazing reining trainer, Chantel Allen took this photo that I still cherish.

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K-Pop And K-Drama Are Bringing South Korean Culture To The World

I love to listen to South Korean music and watch South Korean drama, and I'm also interested in the entertainment industry of this lovely country.

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When I was in middle school, I was not so happy because my parents divorced. My mom, I and my sister needed to rent a small room to live because my father did not want to support us. I felt so bored every day because we did not have a TV or cell phone to be entertained anymore. However, knowing our lack, one of my uncles then bought a small TV for us. Naturally, Korean pop and Korean drama have become one of my favorite programs even though I did not understand any Korean words.

Modern Korean pop, which is characterized by a wide variety of audiovisual elements within South Korea appearing in the late of 1990s while Korean drama also has become popular during that time. Furthermore, I'm interested in most of the activities and news of this big industry, also called Korean Wave, is the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture.

What I like about K-pop and K-drama are the rhythm and the contents. I still remember the first K-drama and the first K-pop performance I watched on TV. That was Lovers in Paris (2014) and the performance of Lee Hyo Ri and Big Bang in MAMA 2009. On my cell phone, a half of my songs' lists are Korean music. Furthermore, some Korean drama is really good at film techniques such as Goblin (2017) or Descendant of the Sun (2016).




Most Korean idols are trained so well in for a long time. For example, the leader of a boy group named Big Bang, Kwon Ji Yong (also called G-Dragon), had been trained in YG Entertainment for 11 years before his first debut. Now he becomes one of the most famous singers in Korea and worldwide. However, unfortunately, not all idols will be successful after being trained, or not all actors and actresses succeed after joining in a TV show.

Otherwise, some Korean artists don't have luck in the fields for which they were trained for, but they are still popular because of attending in other fields. For instance, Song Ji Hyo, an actress who has been well-known from the drama Princess Hours (2006); however, she only becomes so popular in many countries when becoming one of the main casts from a reality show Running Man (2010).



Famous Korean GroupsMikka Jung


In the Korean music industry, there are Big 3 with different styles of groups and music including YG Entertainment, SM Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment. YG is a home of Big Bang, 2NE1, Gummy, Lee Hi, Psy, Winner, iKon or Black Pink. I personally love YG because of its unique music and talented artists. The looks of the artists are not so important to this company.

SM also has many talented artists, but this company really focuses on the looks such as Girl Generations (SNSD), DBSK, Shinee, BOA, EXO or Red Velvet. Otherwise, like SM, JYP also focuses on looks as well as talents like Wonder Girls, MissA, 2PM, 2AM or Twice. I also love solo Korean singers; for example, Lee Hyo Ri, IU, Ailee or Kim Jong Kook.

Besides being singers, some of those idols are also good actors and actresses. To illustrate, there are Im Yoo Na (SNSD) with Love Rain (2012), The K2 (2016) and The King in Love (2017); Bae Suzy (MissA) with Dream High (2011) and Gu Family Book (2013), or D.O. (EXO) with It's ok, That's Love (2014) and Hello Monster (2015).

However, being popular is not really a good thing for these artists because their personal lives will be affected. Some may overcome their own scandals, but others may lose all their fame. Therefore, those idols have lots of pressure, which can cause depression in them. At the end of last year, Jong Hyun (Shinee) chose to end his life after suffering depression for a long time, which was so heartbreaking for his fans because he was a talented person.

Additionally, in the Korean film industry, darkness still exists; there are also many scandals and deaths. For example, in 2011, a tragedy happened to Jang Ja-Yeon, an actress in drama Boys Over Flowers; she decided to suicide after being abused and raped by many people relating to this industry. Also, Jo Minki, who was accused of sexual assault, killed himself because he couldn't stand this scandal.

K-pop and K-drama somehow bring South Korea to the world. Their fans are around the world. I have some friends who decided to learn Korean because they want to read and understand the lyrics of the songs and travel to Korea. Many people also like to cook and eat traditional Korean food because it looks delicious on some reality TV shows. In addition, many young people have also affected by Korean fashion when some outfits from the drama and the music videos become trends.

While Japanese culture is well-known through its manga and anime, Korean culture is introduced well through K-pop and K-drama even though sometimes things in life are different from those. It doesn't relate, but I hope one-day Vietnam also has something that can affect the world in a good way.

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