A blind 17-year-old pole vaulter earned a bronze medal in the Texas high school Class 4A state championship meet Saturday.
Charlotte Brown, a senior from Emory Rains High School, cleared 11 feet, 6 inches, for third place in Austin. In 2014, she tied for fourth after missing all three of her attempts at 11 feet, 6 inches.
“We finally did it,” Brown told reporters while wearing her medal. “It really wasn’t about me. It was about everybody that struggles with something. … This just happens to be what I struggle with. I wouldn’t say that it would necessarily be a big obstacle because there’s always a way to overcome something. So I think if I could send a message to anybody, it’s not about pole vaulting and it’s not about track. It’s about finding something that makes you happy despite whatever obstacles are in your way.”
The New York Times and The Associated Press profiled Brown before she finished eighth at the 2013 state meet. She’s improved her pole vaulting while her vision has worsened. From the AP this year:
Brown was born with normal vision, but developed cataracts when she was 16 weeks old. That led to the first of several operations, including insertion of artificial lenses. Her vision stabilized until she was about 11 when it started to worsen.
By 2013, she still had pinhole vision but couldn’t see color or distinguish shape from shadow. Brown is now blind. While not faced with total darkness, her mother described what remains as a “jigsaw puzzle” of mixed up shades of light and dark.
Her seeing eye dog, Vador, joined Brown on the podium Saturday. Brown will attend Purdue and try to walk on to the track team, according to reports.
“You have to be a little bit crazy to pole vault,” said Brown, who started pole vaulting around seventh grade and jumps with an orange beeper above the plant box to help her know where to plant her pole after counting her steps. “I want to pick the hardest thing I can possibly think of. … Pole vault seemed dangerous.”
If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.
Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.
Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.
If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.
Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.
The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.
Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.
The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.
Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.
Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.
Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.
The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.