Countywide : Visually Impaired to Compete at Track

Seven-year-old Jackie Lambert of Point Mugu plans to compete today in the 20th annual Braille Institute-Optimist Track and Field Olympics in Los Angeles.

But if the second-grader at McKinna Elementary School in Oxnard takes home a medal, others will have to tell her if it is gold, silver or bronze.

Jackie will be one of nine visually impaired children from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties who will compete for the first time in the regional event. As many as 300 children will compete in the Olympics this year, organizers said. For many, the chance to run in a 50-yard or 100-yard race, or to compete in the standing long jump or other events will be the first opportunity to participate in a sport.

Each of today's participants will choose five of nine events they wish to try, and everyone will be given a trophy that recognizes their efforts.

Events are tailored to match the abilities of the children, including the use of twine strung at shoulder height to mark lanes for foot races, said Heidi Gilston, a Braille Institute spokeswoman. Many of the competitors have more serious visual disorders than Jackie, said Wayne Galler, the assistant director of the Braille Institute Youth Center in Santa Barbara.

Born with complete achromatism, Jackie cannot see any colors. Severe far-sightedness and light sensitivity force Jackie to read special books with large print and wear amber sunglasses that block ultraviolet radiation.

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