U.S.A. Judo Paralympian, Jordan Mouton, was 12-years-old when the world, as she knew it, was irreversibly changed. “I started to lose my vision when I was twelve,” recalls Mouton. “It slowly worsened as I got older. By 19, I was completely blind.”
Mouton, 23, had been diagnosed with a visual impairment, Rod Cone Dystrophy. This rare condition, which also afflicted her brother Hunter, would eventually rob her completely of her vision. “When I was younger, my goal was to be an Olympic athlete, so losing my vision was devastating,” says Mouton, “but seeing my older brother go through it made it easier for me to deal with it.”
For most aspiring professional athletes such as Mouton, such a diagnosis can be an emotional blow too difficult to overcome. However, the support of family and friends and her own personal drive to pursue difficult challenges, catapulted her into what would eventually become a Paralympic career in judo.
After participating in a sports camp which featured Paralympic judo athletes, Mouton realized her own Olympic dreams were still attainable: "When I saw the U.S.A. Judo Paralympic athletes, it became my new goal to someday be a part of that team."
As it turns out, Mouton, even as a child, gravitated toward contact sports such as soccer and wrestling; therefore, transitioning into judo was a natural fit. As she states, "I enjoyed aggressive sports, and getting in the mix. Judo pushed me to the limit and challenged me."
After three short years, Mouton qualified for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Though in retrospect she believes she wasn't ready for that level of competition, Mouton considers that first Paralympic experience as cathartic: "Looking back, I wasn't ready for Beijing. It was an exciting experience and I had worked really hard for that opportunity. I became more confident and motivated to improve after those games."
Today, Mouton, who fights in the 57 kg division, holds a bronze medal after competing at the 2011 IBSA World Championships. She feels good despite several injuries she's had to work through. But, despite these setbacks, Mouton is excited and determined to medal in the upcoming London Paralympics. "I feel good. I have more training, I have developed my style and I have strengthened my mental game."
Eddie Liddie, Director of High Performance for U.S.A. Judo and 1984 Olympic Bronze medalist, knows a thing or two about athletic perseverance and commitment. Says Liddie, "Jordan Mouton is an amazing athlete. It is a pleasure to train a hard-working athlete like her. I was overjoyed when she qualified for the Paralympics. I know she has a great opportunity to medal during these Paralympics."
Next month Mouton will have a chance to relive her childhood Olympic dreams: "I've been very fortunate. The truth is that when you push through difficult and hard things, you can really accomplish anything."
Follow Jordan Mouton on Twitter @jmouton57kg and on Facebook: Jordan Mouton Road To London/Team Jordan 2012. For further information on U.S. Paralympics, please visit http://www2.teamusa.org/US-Paralympics.aspx.