You’d think BMX riding isn’t a sport for the faint-hearted, let alone the visually impaired.
No one has told that to Noah Johns, the 10-year-old Thornton boy with a love for speed and a heart bigger than Phar Lap.
Noah was born with dominant optic atrophy, which limits his vision to the point where he’s considered legally blind. It’s a genetic condition, with his father Paul suffering it as well.
The Ashtonfield Public School student competed at his first BMX competition over the weekend, just four months after first giving the sport a crack.
In Noah’s own words, “I’ve tried every sport and BMX is the best”.
“He’s had a go at cricket and soccer, but didn’t really like them,” Paul said.
However, with BMX, things just clicked.
“I love meeting other people, how (riding) can get you pumped up,” Noah said.
“It’s very thrilling, going down the ramps and knocking into other people.”
Noah’s field of vision is limited to a few metres, so he relies on quick reflexes to manueveur through the pack.
“With our vision, we’ll memorise things,” father Paul said.
“He’ll ride the track beforehand and get a feel for it.”
There’s also some words – or barks – of encouragement from the sidelines, coming from the family’s guide dog Kieth.
“Every time we start calling Noah’s name, Kieth starts barking as well,” Paul smiled.
Noah’s mum Melinda said the sport had been great for their son.
“It’s amazing, it’s been very good for his confidence. He really enjoys it,” Melinda said.
The youngster has already set high goals.
“He wants to be the first blind guy to win a gold medal,” Melinda said.
“He hasn’t had any coaching yet, it’d be good to get him a coach or a sponsor and see how far he can go,” Paul said.
Both Paul and Noah have some sage words for other people in a similar position to themselves.
“I think that people with disability should just do it,” Paul said.
“Nothing’s stopping us,” Noah agreed.