Meet Your New World Champion

Posted on December 10, 2014.

First Paralympic judo World Champion since 2002.

World Champion Dartanyon Crockett

 

I have some pretty exciting news for everyone!  In September, the Paralympic Judo world championships were held here in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center.  For me this was so amazing, because Lisa, Leroy and so many others were able to come to watch me compete.  It felt good having them there, like being on the Lincoln-West High School wrestling mats again.  This time the event meant so much more.  I was told ahead of time that winning this event would automatically qualify me for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.  What other motivation did I need at this point to win?

On the day of competition my coach, Ed Liddie, and me had a game plan: be patient.  This was the key to winning my matches, and we stuck to it the entire day.  Here in Colorado we have high altitude on our side. The competitors weren’t lasting more than one or two minute before they started gassing.  Each of my four matches I won with an Ippon, including my last one against Russia to become a World Champion and secure my place on the Paralympic team for Rio!

After I won, I did my little victory celebration, and when I got back to the center of the mat, the tears started to come.  It had just hit me that I am a World Champion, a title that never goes away, and I had just qualified for my second Paralympic Games.  I couldn’t fathom what had just happened, but wait, it actually got a little better.  The Russian who I had beat was walking back to the center of the mat (this is before the referee had called me the winner) he looks down to fix his gi, then he looks up at me and realizes that I’m crying, and just smiled.  He smiled as if I was a close friend, and he was proud of me.  At that moment I couldn’t help but to think, I love my sport!

On a slightly different note, I also recently had surgery.  I had to have my AC joint repaired in my left shoulder.  It is an injury that had happened a little over a year ago.  I am only just now able to take care of it because of the tournaments I had to go to throughout the year, however, now that I have qualified for the Games, I have the luxury to back off of training if need be.  Rehab is my least favorite part, next to not doing Judo of course, but I know I will come back from this much stronger and ready to compete again. Words cannot express the love I’ve felt the past few months and it just continues to surround me like a suit of armor.

This Christmas I am again organizing a clothing drive for a homeless shelter in Colorado Springs.  I have been collecting coats, hats, gloves, sweaters and anything else that can keep people warm this winter.  Soon I will go down to the shelter to match people with items in their size.  Last year was such a special time of hearing people’s stories and letting them know that I know how it feels to be where they are.  I know that what I am doing now is just a small drop in hope’s bucket, but one day I will get to the point where I can help people in big ways, just as you all have done for me.

Thank you for reading, and much love from our Carry On family.

Merry Christmas,

Dartanyon

 

First American Paralympic judo World Champion since 2002.

First U.S. Paralympic judo World Champion since 2002

Absorbing the win with Coach Liddie and Toshi

Absorbing the win with Coach Liddie and Toshi

Knowing Coach Liddie is proud of me means more than gold.

Knowing Coach Liddie is proud of me means more than gold.

Leroy was the first one to flood the mat.

Leroy was the first one to rush onto the mat.

Leroy may have been the first one down, but Lisa hugs harder.

Leroy may have been the first one down, but Lisa hugs harder.

Still not believing this happened.

Still not believing this happened.

Meant so much to me to win this on U.S. soil.

Meant so much to me to win this on U.S. soil.

Sharing the World Championship stage with the world's best support system.

Sharing the World Championship stage with the world’s best support system, Lisa and Leroy.

Leroy In The Driver Seat

Posted on December 10, 2014.

Juicy Fruit reporting here. I had to change my name because Dartanyon told me earlier this year that if he won the World Championships, I had to start going by Juicy Fruit. I am not sure why, and I’m not sure he knows either.  He says a lot of goofy things.  But anyone who plows through the Cubans, Ukrainians and Russians like he did at the World Championships gets to call the shots.

I could not breath during the competition.  He was amazing, and it felt like London all over again. Actually better than London because he looked stronger, more poised, more confident.  I told him to apologize to his competitors.  A grown man should never be picked up and humbled like Dar did to people match after match.  Lisa sat beside me the whole time, screaming like a little girl and burying her head in my shoulder.

When I got back from Colorado, I took my drivers test.  Let’s just say, stay off the road and watch out for my Rav4.  I go where I want, when I want.  Just kidding.  I trained in an adaptive driving program for six months and operate the vehicle using hand controls.  My driving instructor said that I was very good, very careful.  I knew I was going to pass it no problem.  I have awesome reaction speed.  Above all, I have freedom.  For the first time in my life, I do not have to wait for a friend to be going where I want to or need to go.  I don’t need to feel badly asking people for rides.  Driving has restored dignity.  It is an amazing gift that I have been given.

I am working on my portfolio with an artist named Isaac Oster. He is the man. He is a 3D character artist as I aspire to be. He is teaching me things that were lacking in my education.  Now that I can drive myself to a job, my next goal is to get a job.

That’s the peace. I love y’all and am thankful for y’all this holiday season.

Leroy

 

Posing with license paperwork

Posing with license paperwork, wearing Dar’s World Championship t-shirt from the week before.

Gary, my driving tester. You can tell I impressed him. :-)

 

Carry On Recognized

Posted on November 20, 2014.

Carry On Recognized

Spring and summer are known as Awards Seasons in the media world, and Carry On II, first broadcast in July of 2013, brought home a respectable amount of hardware in 2014.

Show ‘em what we won:

 

2014 Gracie Allen Award, Feature Reporting

2014 New York Festival Award, Feature Reporting

2014 National Sportscaster and Sports Writers Story of the Year

2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best News Documentary

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Lisa with Bob Costas at the NSSA Awards Banquet

Dartanyon Named U.S. Sports Envoy and More

Posted on July 21, 2014.

Sorry it’s been a while since my last update, but I have literally been around the world and back.  Took a while.  First off there was a trip I took to Turkmenistan in the spring.  I was asked to go by the U.S. State Department as a Sports Envoy.  When I first received the news, I had no idea what I would be doing or what they required of me.  To be honest, I had never even heard of Turkmenistan.  I was just amazed that out of so many people I was chosen. It is still hard for me to fathom everything that has happened to me and that continues to happen to me.

I soon learned that Turkmenistan is in between Afghanistan and Iran, but it is not an Islamic government.  Turkmenistan was once a part of Russia and now has its own dictatorship.  The U.S Embassy in Turkmenistan wanted to help strengthen our ties with the Turkmen people through sport.  They decided to do that through the sport of blind judo because Turkmenistan does not have a Paralympic Judo team.  The State Department saw the ESPN story that aired in 2013 and thought that I would be a perfect fit.  They also chose Paralympic national team coach Heidi Moore, and Lisa’s husband, Navid.  Navid is a physician, and in Turkmenistan, there is an unfounded belief that if blind or visually impaired people participate in any physical activity, their vision will worsen.  Because of this, blind and visually impaired people were not allowed to participate in sports.  We wanted to prove to them that this was not correct.

When we got to Turkmenistan the schools and judo clubs were really skeptical about letting visually impaired people try judo, but after the first class that Heidi and I taught, and Navid’s presentation on visually impaired athletes in the U.S, they jumped at the idea of having letting blind kids workout with us.  Seeing children and adults alike, run, jump, and actually play around for the first time was breath taking.

Early on in our week there, we put on a clinic for Turkmenistan’s Olympic judo athletes.  They were very skeptical, wondering what they could possibly learn from a blind guy.  But after I threw them around a little, they respected me and began asking all kind of questions through the interpreter.  Heidi and I were able to teach them some new techniques and ways of training.  We invited them back the next day for the blind judo clinic, and to our surprise they not only came, but also helped to teach the blind children who were trying judo for the first time.  We were told that having their top athletes interact with disabled people was a first, that a huge barrier came down that day.  Gotta admit, I cried a little when I got back to my room that night.

Turkmenistan is a pretty crazy place, but I’d go back again any time.  The best part about the whole trip was the impact that we had on these people who were told their whole life that they could not do sports because it was too dangerous. I am learning just how much my once-perceived weaknesses can be used for good and meaningful purposes.  You can see more photos from Turkmenistan by following the Multimedia link of our website.

 

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This past spring, I also did a few speaking engagements for the Franklin Covey Foundation. They are well-known for the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and now they do educational conferences to help teachers teach the habits to their students.  They requested me and Lisa to speak and use our story to inspire teachers to invest in students like me who may have a lot of things working against them growing up, to show them that with a little love and support, it’s never too late.  They flew us out to Kentucky and Columbus, Ohio, and each trip was a great experience.

 

Keynoting in Columbus, OH

Keynoting in Columbus, OH

 

In April, me, Lisa and Leroy were asked to speak at a conference for Gibson, Crutcher and Dunn, which is a law firm. One of the lawyers saw our story and requested that we speak about poverty and teamwork.  He felt that the law firm had lost their sense of family and thought our story was perfect to share.  We didn’t know what to expect, but everyone was so welcoming to us and generous in supporting our future goal.  The conference was at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado, and while we were there, Leroy and I got to hang out, and Lisa and I got to dance at their after party.  We also had the amazing chance to see Lisa almost murder a waitress for trying to take her waffle in caramel sauce before she was done with it one morning.  The whole experience was fantastic.

 

Breakfast at the Broadmoor Hotel.  Couldn't get a picture of Lisa's waffle unfortunately.

Breakfast at the Broadmoor Hotel. Leroy ate enough sausage for the three of us.  Couldn’t get a picture of Lisa’s waffle unfortunately.

 

Judo Update

This past April, I traveled to Brazil for the Grand Prix Infraero in Santo Andre, Brazil.  There were more than 150 visually impaired judo athletes from a dozen countries.  I went 3-1 for the day, with three Ippon victories.  My only loss was to Sam Ingram from Great Britain.  He is the same guy who I lost to in London in 2012.  I fought him much better than I did in London and came close to beating him, but now I know what I need to do next time we fight.  (Can’t tell you what it is in case he reads this.  Ha!)  Still, it was my first tournament in eight months because of my shoulder injury, so I was pretty happy.

In May, I took gold at the U.S. Championships in Reno, NV.  The rest of this summer is really busy for me.  I am traveling to multiple training camps throughout the country in order to peak for the International Association of Blind Athletes World Games September 4-6th.  Two years ago, they were in Turkey.  This year, Colorado Springs is hosting them.  It’s my first qualifier to Rio 2016, so if you are anywhere near Colorado in September, you better get your judo on and come cheer me on.

Also this summer, I was promoted to black belt and learned a bunch of new songs on my saxophone.  Sometimes I don’t know which I’m more excited about.

Dartanyon’s Winter Adventures

Posted on February 5, 2014.

Hello Carry On Family,

The have been some interesting events over the past few months that I am excited to share with you all.  First, on January 23rd, I was awarded the Greater Cleveland Amateur Athlete of the Year Award.  It was an honor to even be nominated, but to win…wow.  I grew up hearing about those awards but never imagined being allowed in the door let alone up on stage.  Ironically, my roommate at the Olympic Training Center, Jason, was also nominated.  He is a fencer from Elyria, Ohio.  Sorry Jason!

Over Christmas, Uncle Bob and Aunt Paige took Leroy and me skiing in Winter Park, Colorado.  I took to it fairly easy, and it is something I definitely want to do again.  I think it’s my new favorite winter activity after sitting inside.  Leroy had the harder job on the mono ski.  And he wasn’t used to the altitude like I am either.  The only downside which really isn’t much, is that because of it being an adaptive ski program, I had to wear a “Blind Skier Bib.” All it does is rob you of your dignity.  I will not be wearing that again.  They also surprised us by flying Lisa out to watch us.  Super awesome.

I also received a saxophone for Christmas from Aunt Paige and Uncle Bob. It has been an instrument that I have always wanted to play but just never had the means to afford it. I have been playing it pretty much every day since I got it. I am making progress but I still have a long way to go. My roommate, Jason, plays and is helping me along the way.  YouTube has also been a huge help.

I am back to training and school has started.  I am taking two classes again, Philosophy and Psychology.  It’s weird, but I am actually excited for school.  Really loving it.  Thank you all again for your love and support.

Dartanyon

 

Not liking this ski bib.

Really not liking this ski bib.

Thank you Aunt Paige and Uncle Bob!

Thank you Aunt Paige and Uncle Bob!

Leroy was The Man on that monoski.  Really admire him.

Leroy was The Man on that monoski. Really admire him.

Maybe Lisa and ESPN will do a skiing feature on us next.  Ha!

Maybe Lisa and ESPN will do a skiing feature on us next. Ha!

 

P.S. From Lisa -

I was gifted with the opportunity to fly out and see Leroy and Dartanyon ski for the first time.  (Thank you Bob and Paige!!)  We couldn’t have asked for a better ski day – fresh powder, warm sun, zero wind and our own adaptive guides.  Heaven.  Leroy and Dartanyon looked quite chic in their new ski gear.  It took over an hour for Leroy to be properly fitted in a mono ski, particularly to find poles with arm bands big enough to fit over his bulging biceps! He looked a little unsure of the whole thing, but once out on the snow, he was a natural.  His guides said they had never before see a mono skier do what he was able to do on his first day.  Hardly surprising to the rest of us, as it is Leroy.

Dartanyon had the easier time on the slopes but a harder time with wardrobe.  As he mentioned, he had to wear a bib that said “Blind Skier” in some of the biggest black letters you’ve ever seen, to alert other skiers who might assume he can easily seem them coming.  After a few hours of good laughs at his expense, we decided that next time in solidarity, we will all wear ski bibs broadcasting our greatest limitation. But Dartanyon was fantastic, a natural, as always.

More mountains moved in this idyllic day.