The world’s fastest blind man is joining the world’s fastest-growing running company. David Brown and his guide Jerome Avery are officially team On.
When David and Jerome sprint in perfect symmetry, it is the result of countless hours of training and constant adaptation. As the pair explain in the short film above, David is constantly taking cues from his guide Jerome, fine tuning the run from the gun to the finish line. We learn how adaptation has turned these two powerful individuals into an unstoppable team.
David Brown’s story is one of overcoming the odds. A three-time gold medalist, two-time record breaker and the first totally blind athlete to run 100m in under 11 seconds, his story transcends sport. To say he is an inspiration is putting it lightly.
At just 15 months old he was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, an illness which causes inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body. It resulted in glaucoma and David started losing his sight. By the age of six, he was unable to play ball sports but, undeterred, he was equally unable to give up on being active.
“I was looking for a way to keep up with the other kids. I’d think, ‘Okay. How can I adapt and stay active and competitive with my friends?’” he says.
“And that ‘how’ was by running, sprinting and racing with them. As long as I wasn’t bumping into anything, I’d back myself against them in a foot race.”
Then in 2008, after winning an essay contest to attend the Paralympic Games in Beijing, David discovered a new life goal: qualifying for the games. Four years later, he had accomplished that goal as he represented Team USA at the 2012 games in London.
As a T11 athlete, he has the highest level of visual impairment recognized by the International Federation for Paralympic Athletics. This means he has “very low visual acuity and/or no light perception.” He’s never seen the lanes he runs, never seen the starting blocks.
And so, to keep him on track, David works side by side with his sprinting guide Jerome Avery. The pair met for the first time in 2014 and have been inseparable since. Which is just as well, as synchronicity is essential in Paralympic blind sprinting.
Jerome is himself a four-time Paralympian and three-time Paralympic medalist. A former Olympic hopeful, Jerome finished in the top 20 at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials and in the top 15 in the 2004 Olympic Trials. In high school, he was named ‘most valuable player’ (MVP) four years straight in track, and he was ranked fifth in the state of California in the 100 m sprint. He has been a guide with Team USA since 2004, but in David he found more than just a running partner.
“We’re like brothers. Our personalities just match,” says David.
“For some athletes, the relationship between guide and runner is just professional but not for us.”
Some say that the race looks like a variant of a three-legged race. Runner and guide must try to strike the ground at exactly the same time, with their arms and legs moving together perfectly in sync, to be as fast as possible.
And David and Jerome are certainly capable of going fast. Just look at the collection of medals and broken records that lie in their wake.
“David and Jerome are undoubtedly two of today’s most inspiring athletes on the professional circuit,” says Olivier Bernhard, co-founder of On.
“David puts his complete trust in his guide, Jerome, and is now taking strides to live a life without restraint. His courage, character and friendship with Jerome shows the true meaning of an enduring human spirit—an ideology that runs parallel with our own guiding principles as a company that believes in fulfilling ones own dreams. David and Jerome are true champions and we’re very proud to welcome them both in to the On family with open arms.”