Taylor Talbot, a sophomore studying exercise science at BYU-Idaho, will be competing in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics for track and field.
Talbot is legally blind. This physical challenge has only added to her motivation and drive.
“I just want to prove to the world that blind people can do anything they put their minds to, and not just blind people, but other people with physical challenges,” Talbot said. “You can do anything you put your mind to. There’s always going to be setbacks, failures and obstacles, but it’s how you deal with them that matters. ”
Talbot has almost no peripheral vision. This means she has tunnel vision and can only see objects that are directly in front of her.
“My visual fields — how much I can see at once — is like looking through a straw,” Talbot said.
While on the track, she cannot see the painted lines, her competitors or even her own hands. The only thing she sees is the color of the track.
“When I’m training, it’s kind of hard because I’m not just practicing and executing my race, I’m also practicing muscle memory so that I don’t go out of my lane,” Talbot said. “That is a common mistake that visually impaired people can make when they’re running track and field.”
This is Talbot’s last season without a guide runner — a teammate who will run with her and act as her eyes to help her stay between the lines and avoid obstacles. When she returns to BYU-I after competing in the Paralympics, she will be looking for a male guide runner to train and compete with her.
Talbot experienced a roller coaster of emotions in her qualifying journey. Originally, she made the team. However, her Paralympic dream was cut short the following day after she was told that she was off the team due to a mathematical error.
“I just broke down,” Talbot said. “I had made it to the Olympic and Paralympic stage, and I had been working for it for so long. It had meant the world to me to make that team. When they took it away, I just felt lost. I felt so lost because track has been my entire life. I’ve been running ever since I could walk. So when they took that away, I was like, ‘Well, if I’m not a racer, who am I?'”
Even though she had faced rejection and disappointment, Talbot never lost hope.
“It’s okay to hope during hard times; it’s definitely okay to hope,” Talbot said. “I was just praying that somehow I would make it and that if I didn’t, I would be okay, and I’d be able to get through it. I just had this overwhelming feeling of peace. It wasn’t saying, ‘Yeah, you’re gonna make it’ or, ‘No, you’re not gonna make it,’ but it was saying, ‘Whatever happens, everything’s gonna be okay.'”
She discovered that she was the first alternate. If another slot opened up or an athlete dropped out, she would be back on the team. She pushed herself to keep training amidst the uncertainty and spent a lot of time in prayer and pondering.
“I had faith that it could happen, but if it didn’t, I knew I would be okay,” Talbot said. “The next day they called me and said, ‘Hey, you’re back in.’ So I actually had some really crazy spiritual experiences and miracles throughout this entire season, and that was one of the biggest ones.”
Before her Paralympic journey, Talbot debated between serving a mission or trying out for the team. She prayed about it and felt peace about both options.
After deciding to try out for the Paralympic team, Talbot prayed and asked God for a mild winter in her hometown. Without access to an indoor track, a mild winter would make it easier for Talbot to train outside.
“I was praying, and I said, ‘Okay, I’ve chosen this Heavenly Father, I’ve chosen to try to go to Tokyo, and if it’s what you want me to do then please let there be a mild winter,’ and there was,” Talbot said. “There’s just been miracle after miracle after miracle this season.”
Talbot described how all of these experiences have strengthened her and brought her closer to God.
“There is no doubt in my mind that God has had a hand in this,” Talbot said. “I can see it everywhere. After this entire season, there’s no doubt in my mind at all that there’s a God, and I can’t deny it. That has been one of the biggest blessings about my track and field career is just seeing all these miracles in it, and it’s incredible.”
Talbot will be running in the 100 and 400 meter races. She is excited to give it everything she has and hopes to bring home a medal.
“I think an athlete should always visualize themselves on the podium, because you want to be there eventually,” Talbot said. “But as long as I go out there and give it my best, I’m going to be happy, whether I medal or not.”
The Paralympic games will run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 and will be available to watch on nbcolympics.com.
“I would just advise everybody who can, to watch the Paralympics because these athletes are absolutely incredible,” Talbot said. “I have a lot of friends on the team, and they’re probably the most amazing people that I’ve ever met. There’s people in wheelchairs, there’s people who are missing limbs, there’s people who are blind like me or have cerebral palsy, and to see all these professional athletes performing through hardship is just incredible.”
Talbot’s Paralympic biography can be found here.