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Blind bike racer refuses to give in to disability

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POSTED February 5, 2013 7:51 p.m.

MILL VALLEY  (AP) — A Northern California man who lost his eyesight to diabetes has refused to give up on his lifelong love of athletics, including as a competitive mountain biker.

Bobby McMullen, 50, negotiates traffic and tight curves with the help of a friend who rides with him and serves as his guide.

McMullen has not only overcome his blindness to become a biker and champion skier, but has overcome clogged arteries, cancer and two separate kidney and pancreas transplants.

The mountain bike racer trains on paved roads with a friend, Brad Waldron, who calls out obstacles as they present themselves and keeps up a steady conversation.

A doctor who oversaw McMullen's care during one of his transplants keeps a picture of the athlete careening down a ski run at 60 mph on his wall. The doctor uses it to encourage other patients.

"Nothing gets this guy down," Dr. Steven Katznelson told the Chronicle. "No matter what happens, he heals up and he heals up faster than anybody would have guessed."

McMullen was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12, and lost his sight in 1992 due to ocular bleeding.

Despite the setback, he trained with a blind Paralympics skier and went on to become the national blind ski champion in 1996 in super giant slalom and downhill.

McMullen can see some light and images, but is legally blind.

Still, he competes against non-disabled riders and usually comes in last or near the rear of the pack. But he is one of the most popular riders on the tour.

"I think it is important to have a passion for something, to believe in yourself," McMullen said. "I don't think people believe in themselves as much as they should."


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