Most skateboarders use their hands to balance themselves. Ryusei Ouchi uses a cane.
By all other measures, though, the 20-year-old looks like any other extremely skilled skater — grinding, flipping his board and bombing down ramps despite not being able to see the ground underneath him.
Ouchi, who was diagnosed with an eye condition at age 7, started skateboarding when he was 15, just as his eyesight began to drastically deteriorate. At the time, his reasoning was simple: He wanted to get as good as possible before his vision disappeared completely.
“In my second year of high school, my eyesight got really bad, and all of a sudden the disease was progressing at a faster rate and I started panicking a little,” Ouchi told Reuters last year.
Now, even though he’s almost entirely blind, his skills haven’t declined. In fact, he’s only gotten better as he’s gotten older, continuing to work at a skill he knows some people might view as being incompatible with his disability.
“If I’m skateboarding I don’t know how safe I can be, but that’s life,” Ouchi told Reuters. “I love skateboarding regardless and want to do it.”
Watching Ouchi skate is remarkable. The 20-year-old glides down ramps just like any other athlete his age, feeling out rails and inclines with his can before jumping onto them.
Those impressive stunts haven’t seemed to convince everyone, though. Ouchi told Reuters that he faces doubters constantly — including ones from the international skateboarding community (the sport is set to make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics, but it is not yet being added to the Paralympics).
“Many people tell me that they can’t believe I skateboard being blind. I get this often,” he said. “Right now, it is not yet common for blind people to skateboard, at least in the minds of the general public.”
If skateboarding does get added to the Paralympics one day, Ouchi is confident it would be a hit. In the meantime, he’s honing his skills, sharing his tricks on Instagram and making thousands of people more aware of his journey.
“As a skateboarder, even if I am blind I want to skateboard when I can, so I want to continue having pride in myself and spreading my story,” he told Reuters.
If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s article on the 21-year-old transgender model who’s speaking out about his deafness.
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