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Sighted Rules disable blind judo champ

Greg Middleton The Province
Monday, March 03, 2003

Blind and deaf judo champ Pier Morten is fighting mad that he wasn't allowed to lay hands on his opponent at a judo tournament Saturday. Morten says he was essentially used as "a tackling dummy" at a competition in North Vancouver after they wouldn't let him fight by rules used by blind competitors.

"If I fight sighted rules, I might as well not fight because I'm no better than a tackling dummy," Morten said yesterday. Morten, 44, was born deaf and lost his sight at age nine. He took up wrestling in high school and turned to judo in 1985. He's fought in seven Paralympics, three in wresting and four in judo, winning medals in both. And he's hoping to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens next year.

Morten said blind fighters are touching each other at the start and the referee starts the match by tapping the opponents on the shoulder. "There aren't enough blind tournaments to compete in, so I must fight in sighted tournaments," Morten said. "I have been competing in B.C. and in Washington since 1985 and I've never had a problem. Sometimes the referee forgets to tap me, but it doesn't matter because I have contact and can feel my opponent start to move."

Morten said his opponents have never complained.

After the referee refused to allow him to fight by blind rules, he walked out, in part because he felt it would not be safe to continue.

Dave Spite, head referee for the Spirit International Judo Tournament put on by the Seikidokan Judo Club, said he didn't know why Morten was complaining.

"The rules (in regular tournament competition) say you start with your hands down at your sides, Spite said.

Championship wrestler Jennifer Rye, who is on the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Team, said she thought some concessions should have been made for Morten.

Gmiddleton@png.canwest.com




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