PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Todd Vogt thought his Parkinson’s diagnosis would end his competitive rowing career but he’s training harder than ever — and has his sights set on the 2020 Paralympic Games.
The Portland man has been rowing for decades. He discovered a love for the sport in college and has even competed in national championships.
But he started noticing something was wrong a couple of years ago.
“In fall of 2017 when I was preparing for a rowing competition, I started noticing I was really fatigued — much more fatigued than I normally was,” Todd said. “I noticed my performance was decreasing and my times on the rowing machines were decreasing, even though I was training quite a bit.”
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease less than a year later in August of 2018.
“It was pretty devastating at first,” he said. “One of the first things I thought was, I was definitely not going to be a competitive rower anymore.”
But Todd started to workout again and his fitness slowly improved.
He was invited to race on the U.S. national team last summer and he currently trains 12 times a week in the hopes of landing a spot on the Paralympic team that will travel to Tokyo in the summer of 2020.
Todd’s neurologist at OHSU Dr. Ron Pfeiffer believes rowing is almost certainly having a positive effect on Todd’s health.
“People with Parkinson’s disease who exercise do better for longer,” he said. “There’s even some data in animal literature that would suggest that exercise may alter progression of Parkinson’s — slow progression of Parkinson’s.”
There is no cure for the disease but Todd is doing his part to slow its progression.
“There are times when I want to lay on the couch and watch TV,” he said. “But I think it’s good to get beyond that and live my life and hopefully others can do that, too.”
Todd will head to camp in June where he will learn whether he qualified for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which run from late August to early September.