DES MOINES, Iowa — For decades, the Drake Relays have vaulted unknown names into stardom, and this year’s field is loaded with Olympic talent.
As David Brown sets foot on the legendary Blue Oval, he’s the gold medal favorite heading into Rio.
“Track is who I am, and speed is who I am,” he said.
His two world records make him almost unbeatable.
“David Brown is a power sprinter. His explosiveness and his power is just amazing,” said Jerome Avery, Brown’s guide.
His passion is unmatchable.
“I just love going fast,” Brown said. “I love speed. I feel a rush from going that fast.”
Some might think being blind would hinder the sprinter at pursuing his dream.
“Your only limit is what you set for yourself. It’s all a mindset,” Brown said.
At just 15-months- old, he was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, which caused glaucoma. He lost his left eye to surgery at 3-years-old. And 10 years later, he lost vision in his right eye.
“It was hard at first, but God had a plan,” Brown said.
He quickly took to track.
“When I step on this track or run in general, I still get the sense of freedom.”
At 23-years-old, he’s an international Paralympic Committee World Record holder in the 200-meter dash. He’s also the first completely blind athlete to run 100 meters in under 11 seconds.
“When I did it for the first time, I was like yes, finally somebody broke that barrier. And at the same time for it be me, I was like, wow this is mind-blowing. I never thought I could go that fast,” Brown said.
He’s quick to note that he’s not doing it alone.
“Communication is key,” he said.
Jerome Avery met Brown in 2010. They’ve been inseparable on the track ever since.
“We have a tether that’s no more than just three inches apart and tethered by hand,”
Avery paints the picture during the race.
“So if we are coming out of the blocks, I’m like drive, drive, drive,” Avery said.
Brown is a T-11 Paralympic runner, a division with the lowest amount of visibility.
“We are required to wear tinted out glasses so I’ll wear sunglasses that have black tape over them,” he said.
And he hopes to leave Rio in gold.
“Going for four gold medals and four world records,” Brown said.
They’re lofty goals proving that even without sight, he has a vision.
“I’m not just trying to be the fastest blind athlete, I’m trying to be the fastest athlete period. I’m gunning for Usain Bolt,” he laughed.
Brown will run in the 200 meters Friday at 8 p.m. in a mixed field that will include Paralympic athletes of different levels. He hopes to win gold at the Paralympic games in September in the 100, 200, 400-meter races and the 4×100 meter relay.