In a country where every child getting a trophy for participating is becoming an increasingly despised occurrence, maybe Shawn Berg’s story won’t be all that impressive. After all, the Washington-based high school senior didn’t place in the medals during his bid for a top slot in last week's Class 4A 160-pound division wrestling contest.
Really, considering the fact that he went 1-2 for the day and lost his final match 1-0, on the surface, there appears to be no reason to talk about the youngster.
Thing is, though, his accomplishments are actually far more impressive than they initially appear to be on paper. As reported by the Seattle Times (via Yahoo! Sports), Berg did what he did despite the fact that he’s 100 percent blind in his right eye and 95 percent blind in his left. Yes, you read that correctly – Berg participated in a top-level high school wrestling competition despite the fact that he basically can't see.
Per the Times:
He lost his sight at age 4 ½ due to a benign tumor that still has to be monitored regularly with MRIs.
Among his biggest admirers is teammate Bryce McPherson, who remained unbeaten and advanced to the semifinals at 195.
"I've always looked up to him and everything he's done," McPherson said. "I close my eyes and I can't even walk straight."
But Berg doesn't think there's anything special about what he's accomplished.
"I get a lot of people who come up to me and say, 'Wow, it's so great what you're able to do,' " he said. "I appreciate all of their comments, but I'm just doing what everybody else is doing. It's just that I can't see. It's no different."
Berg, 17, is treated like any other wrestler in most regards. The only rule change is that opponents must keep contact with him at all times. His father, Darryl, is an assistant coach and a voice Shawn can always pick up during any match.
Winning is important. Kids should learn that winning is important. But sometimes it doesn’t hurt to let young people participate in sporting events and take pride in the actual experience, not just the end result. Yes, if you're an adult and you don't drive a Benz and aren't married to a supermodel and don't own the newest iPhone you're an undeniable failure. However, when it comes to the non-adults, maybe it is OK for youngsters be youngsters, and maybe it's OK to let them feel good even if they don't win.
If you’re a subscriber to the theory that all that matters is who achieves victory in the end then Berg’s achievement last week isn’t all that impressive. But if your heart doesn't melt on hot days, you'll probably appreciate his story and all he's been able to accomplish.
Check out a glimpse of Berg doing his thing in the video below.
(Photo Credit: Seattle Times)