Blind athlete powers on

By Kelly Exelby

Northland's Brian Froggatt was sceptical when Ming Ming Edgar bounded through the doors of his Dargaville gym three years ago and wanted to give powerlifting a try.
Blindness, issues of balance and the usual hazards of heavy weights and protruding bars in a confined area were the cause of his concern.
So it's interesting to hear Froggatt say his biggest headache since taking on Edgar, an 18-year-old blind athlete, hasn't been the typical challenges that arise accommodating an unsighted athlete.
It's been getting the ebullient Dargaville High School student to shut up long enough to listen to his coach's instructions.
"The challenges of coaching Ming Ming haven't been a hell of a lot different to coaching any other novice ... other than shutting him up for long enough to actually listen to what I'm saying!" said Froggatt, who was referee and coach at Saturday's North Island powerlifting championships in Tauranga.
"He's super enthusiastic and isn't shy about bowling up to anyone in the gym and talking anything that takes his fancy. He's also continually wanting to try every exercise and piece of equipment."
Edgar, who has already racked up a dozen competitions as well as a trip last year to the Australian blind powerlifting champs where he placed third, scored a personal best 130kg squat in sub-juniors (under-18) on Saturday.
He also benchpressed 85kg and scored another personal high of 150kg in the deadlift. Edgar has been training three times a week with Froggatt.
Blind since his birth in China, he was adopted 11 years ago by Northland woman Gaynor Edgar while she was working as an English teacher in China. She had years earlier adopted two children from Malaysia.
Ming Ming is outgoing and charming and utterly irrepressible, not afraid to give anything a go.
"Mingsy learned to sail last summer, starting out with his 12-year-old niece.

By the end of summer he had a walkie talkie and was off sailing a P-class by himself," Gaynor said.
"He'll grab every opportunity that comes his way, which I've always encouraged."
Froggatt first met Ming Ming when his swimming coach brought him into the gym to use the weights and improve his technique, which he'd been having trouble with.
"He said he'd like to try powerlifting and I said I'd coach him, but only if he did what I told him," Froggatt said.
"I trained him for six weeks before he entered a novice competition. He didn't lift that much weight but his technique, which is everything in powerlifting, was good and from there it was a matter of getting his strength up.
"It helped too that he was super enthusiastic."
Froggatt conceded there were challenges, some of them ongoing, with working with a blind athlete.
"There are the balance issues, particularly with the squat, and spatial awareness _ knowing where things are _ was difficult early on, although Ming has picked things up and now mostly loads his own weights.
"We help him lower the weights on to the rack after a lift but 90 per cent of the time you forget he can't see."
Ming Ming also rollerblades and skateboards, using his cane to guide himself, and plays drums in his church band.
Although there is powerlifting at the Paralympics, Ming Ming's disability is considered sensory rather than physical. He could run and swim for New Zealand in Beijing this year but isn't eligible to lift.
"The world blind championships are his ticket internationally," Froggatt said, "so getting to a standard where he'd be reasonably competitive is our next challenge."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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