PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Paralympics begin this week — and Oregon will be represented by Taylor Talbot of Ontario.

For Talbot, the track has always been home. Her parents met when they both ran for Southern Utah University’s track team. Talbot said because of them, she grew up on the track and has been running ever since she could walk.

Talbot talks about her childhood with fondness — but all the while, she was fighting to come to grips with a reality she didn’t want to face.

“I just kinda felt like a normal kid, like I didn’t know that I had this crazy degenerative disease that was destroying my sight,” Talbot said. “I was having fun with my friends, I was at school.”

Talbot was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare degenerative eye disease that affects about one in 4,000 people.

“My sight is basically like looking through a drinking straw. I have no peripheral vision, no night vision and my visual field is about 5% in my right eye and completely gone — there’s just like a teeny tiny flicker of light in it,” Talbot explained.

As her eyesight diminished — so did her love for the track she’d called home for so many years. But the first para-track events at the state championships changed everything for her. 

“I had these shin splints and also I just didn’t want to do track so I was like, ‘I’m going to prove that I can do it and that maybe I can actually enjoy it,’ and so that was also the year that they came out with those two events,” she said. “At first, I was like, ‘No I don’t want to do those two new events, that sounds kinda dumb,’ and I’m really glad I changed my mind because it changed my life.” 

Talbot ran in the para-100m and the para-400m. Her dominance was immediate.

“I took the gold in the 100 and the silver in the 400,” Talbot said. “That’s actually how the Paralympics found me.”

Talbot will make her Tokyo debut this week as a member of the USA’s Paralympic Track and Field Team.

Her journey is far from over — both in life and in sport — but she credits track with helping her understand she’s defined far more by what she has than what she’s lost.

“I think actually track really helped me connect with people and that’s what helped me accept that yes, having retinitis pigmentosa, being legally blind, using a mobility cane — that is part of me and track helped me learn to love that part of me,” she said. “But I also learned that it’s not who I am.”