NASHVILLE --- For 2012 Tennessee State University graduate and former member of the TSU men’s track and field team Markeith Price, representing the United States in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio will be one of the greatest honors of his life.
“It’s really big, honestly,” Price said. “I was born visually impaired. One thing I’ve always wanted to do is represent the United States in some type of capacity. Unfortunately, I’m not able to join the military or be a police officer or anything like that. Being able to represent my country in any type of capacity is a huge honor and just being able to represent my family and represent God is a major thing for me.”
Price was one of 66 athletes chosen to compete for the U.S. in Rio de Janeiro on Sept. 7-18 following the team trials in Charlotte, N.C. The Baltimore, Md. native will compete against some of the world’s best athletes in the 100m and the 400m for the T-13 Visually Impaired classification at the 2016 Paralympic Games. It will be Price’s second time competing on the biggest stage after earning a sixth place finish in the long jump and taking eighth in the 400m at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. That experience should help him this time around.
“It was a phenomenal experience. I went there in 2012 just hoping to make the finals and do my best,” said Price. “I just took the moment in. There were 80,000 people in the stands, and it was just a true honor. Going back, I know how much of an honor it is. Just having that experience and knowing there are always going to be a ton of people there and being ready for the stage, it really helps me out so much with my confidence.”
Diagnosed with Optic Nerve Atrophy at the age of three, Price has lived with visual impairment his entire life. The condition is caused by damage of the optic nerve or due to the nerve never fully developing at birth. While typical vision is 20/20, the vision in Price’s right eye ranges from 20/250-20/400 based on the lighting, and his left eye is more in the 20/600-20/800 range.
“When I was younger, I never really knew how to describe it,” Price explained. “As I got older and heard other people describe their vision, I was able to get a better understanding. Basically, to relate it to someone else, I can only really see a clear view of larger things from 2-5 feet. After that, things do get blurry. With reading, it’s not 2-5 feet; it’s more like 2-5 inches.”
Price, who recently moved back to Maryland, is committed to helping members of the visually impaired community. He started a non-profit organization called I C You Foundation, Inc., which raises money for scholarships and programs for the visually impaired. Over the past three years, the foundation has given over $20,000 to organizations such as the Maryland School for the Blind, the Tennessee School for the Blind and the United States Association for Blind Athletes.
“It’s something that my parents really taught me and it’s something that I really believe in strongly, and that is giving back to the community,” Price said. “I specifically give back to the visually impaired community because I know that group of people and I know the struggle of how we go through life. I want to help people in the visually impaired community to go on and do something greater.”