Throwing for gold: Judo athlete going to Paralympics

Legally blind Victoria Judo Club member Tim Rees is going to the Paralympics

Tim Rees throws a fellow member of the Victoria Judo Club

Tim Rees throws a fellow member of the Victoria Judo Club

Some of Tim Rees’ Paralympic judo opponents won’t see him at all.

Others will have better vision than his, which is limited at best, as he’s legally blind.

It won’t matter, he says.

“If we are separated at any time, the match stops and we reset our grip.”

Rees’ level of vision is mostly peripheral. “It will be somewhere in the middle compared to the guys I’m up against.”

Matches start with a hold of each other’s gi to level the field. It’s the only difference between the Olympic and Paralympic judo formats.

“Once you’re in a full grip there’s not much disadvantage to having poor eyes because you can feel where your opponent is moving,” Rees said.

The 32-year-old trains with the Victoria Judo Club out of the Burnside Gorge Community Centre and competes in both formats. Even with his lack of eyesight, which is due to rod cone dystrophy, a rare form of macular degeneration, he still finished fifth at the Canadian nationals in his weight class last month.

But because there aren’t enough visually impaired judo athletes in Canada to populate a national tournament, he had to qualify for the upcoming London Paralympic Games through international tournaments.

He did that with fifth and seventh place finishes at the world Paralympic games in 2011 and 2010, respectively, and a bronze medal at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The bronze came just weeks after Rees moved to Victoria with his wife and two sons, now two and four years old, from Waterloo, Ont. He completed his doctorate in applied mathematics and came here to start his current job as a postdoctoral research fellow at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

His eyesight began deteriorating in his late teens and has declined more rapidly than expected. “There is a ray of hope to one day restore my sight through a research project currently underway, maybe five or 10 years down the road, but mine is a rarer condition under the broader scope of the research.”

In the meantime, Rees says it’s a pretty normal life. He’s the only visually impaired member of the 55-year-old Victoria Judo Club, but is adamant in his belief that judo is an ideal sport for visually impaired people to practise.

“It’s a very accommodating club and is a great way to spend time.”

Rees opens the London Paralympic judo competition with a qualifying round on Saturday, Sept. 1.

“I’ve faced many of the athletes in my category before, and they’re surprisingly strong. They have a great sense of balance,” Rees said.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Westcoast Impressions plans to organize a COVID-19 friendly version of the event in 2021 at the Mary Winspear Centre after having cancelled the 2020 version against the backdrop of pandemic. The opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market featured more than 150 vendors lined along Beacon Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney Street Market plans for 2021 return at Mary Winspear Centre

Tentative plan calls for the event’s return to Beacon Avenue after COVID-19 pandemic

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read