DUBAI: Life suddenly looked meaningless for 25 year old Lindy Hou when she began losing sight in the mid-80s due to a degenerative eye condition (retinitis pigmentosa). But that was almost three decades ago.
Today, 53-year-old Hou, who has gone almost totally blind, is an inspiration to many, having tasted success in two Paralympics Games and in paratriathlon, a journey that has seen her overcome many a hurdle. “Initially I didn’t know what was really going on since I had a fair bit of eyesight. But a few years later it hit me hard when I realised I could no longer drive. This was a pretty tough phase,” Hou told XPRESS during her visit to the UAE recently. “It becomes difficult for a woman who has been independent to realise suddenly she can’t do her things.”
But Hou did not allow these crippling blows to get her down.
With strong support from her family and friends, she decided to give another shot to life and learned to cope and overcome her disability. “I started a new journey. I slowly came to terms and knew there was no point in being sad and sorry for myself. I began understanding there were other less fortunate people who were doing well,” said Hou, who hails from Australia.
Despite being in her mid-30s, when her eye was affected, it did not let age stop her from achieving her dream. She first made an impact at the 2004 Athens Paralympics winning one gold (sprints), two silver (3000m pursuit and combined race/time trial) and a bronze (1km time trial). “I found focus and destination,” said Hou, who rode a tandem cycle with her guide. “Winning those medals in Athens proved that any one can fulfill their dream through hard work and dedication.”
At the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008 she secured a silver and bronze in the 3,000m and 1,000m races.
In between, in 2005, with her pilot Toireasa Gallagher she set the One Hour World Women’s Tandem record of 42.93km in Sydney. She also held the shortest and longest distance world records in Paratriathlon.
Another year later, in September 2006, Lindy won her first Rainbow Jersey (the world championship jersey) when they won two gold medals at the International Paralympic Committee World Championships.
After retiring from Paralympic cycling, Lindy took to paratriathlon.
She is connected with a rope to their guide, who swims and runs besides her and cycles on a tandem bike. “When I wanted to do paratriathlon, many doubted my capability but I proved to be successful and showed results,” said Hou, who recently competed in the World Triathlon Championship in London where she was placed seventh in the open age category which meant she was up against much younger competitors.
In the UAE, Hou met athletes and people with special needs in a series of events. “I love meeting people and talking to them. I tell them how to use positive things in life and keep going,” she said.