MESA, Ariz. — Spectators who saw 40-year-old sprinter Brayan Solares win two medals at this year’s Desert Challenge Games in Mesa had no idea what getting to the finish line required.
Solares, from Guatemala City, Guatemala, arrived in Arizona last week without his running guide. Visually impaired runners prefer to compete with guides who train with them. But Brayan’s guide was denied a VISA.
“I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to make the trip,” Solares said in Spanish.
Solares said he lost his sight when he was 7 years old. A bullet pierced his temple. As Solares grew older, he developed a passion for running.
“It makes me feel free,” Solares said. “It helps me in my mobility, my self-confidence, and my health.”
Organizers with Arizona Disabled Sports assured Brayan there was a local runner willing to be his guide. Lucas Crisanti is a certified Prosthetist Orthotist at Ottobock.care in Mesa. Crisanti typically volunteers as a running guide for marathons. He volunteered to fill in as a guide for the five-day competition if he was needed.
Two days before the competition, Solares and Crisanti began training to get their rhythm and timing in sync.
“The learning curve was very steep,” Crisanti said. “Brayan showed me how to start properly out of the blocks and how to properly guide someone who is sprinting.”
They learned to listen to each other’s breath and footsteps in order to stay in stride with each other. An added barrier to training was the language barrier.
“We each learned a little English and a little Spanish and we figured it out,” Solares said, speaking in Spanish. “He’s a person with a big heart with a lot of compassion to be willing to support me.”
Crisanti said the feeling is mutual.
“It goes both ways,” Crisanti said. “It just shows you that sports is a universal language,” Crisanti said.
More than 200 athletes competed during the five-day Desert Challenge Games at Mesa Community College.
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