Summerside native now involved in guide running for visually impaired teenager in Ottawa
Cierra Gaudet ran the 400-metre at the Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que.
Cierra Gaudet was nervous standing at the starting line before a race in mid June.
The 21-year-old Summerside native has been running for years, but this event was unlike anything she had ever done before. The University of Ottawa student would be guiding a 14-year-old visually impaired runner through a 100-metre sprint event.
With the firing of the starter’s pistol, Gaudet started down a new path in her athletic career.
“From that moment on it just kind of clicked,” Gaudet said. “We just really enjoy being in each other’s company.”
Larissa Brown has Stargdt’s disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration. She was a competitive dancer before her vision decreased to the point she had to stop and take up another activity. She started running in March. Gaudet’s coaches knew Brown and connected the two.
“I’ve just always loved helping people out,” Gaudet said. “It’s just really special to do that with someone.”
She is learning new things everyday, but is enjoy the challenge.
And the partnership appears to be working. Brown has set new personal bests in the 100-metre (14.19) and 200-metre (29.16) sprints this summer.
“I am really proud of how she has grown over the summer and matured,” Gaudet said. “I am really proud of how she is able to handle herself. It makes me grin a little bit because I was always a basket case before races.
“If anything I am learning from her, too.”
Gaudet gives voice commands to Brown and the two are connected with an armband.
“Depending on the strain on the theraband, that will let her know how far away she is from me in the lane,” Gaudet explained.
She is looking forward to continue to work with Brown and see how far they can get.
Gaudet represented the Island this month at the Canada Games. She came 17 in the 400-metre and was part of the province’s 4x400-metre relay team that finished ninth.
“I didn’t get to train as much this summer with my guide running commitments,” Gaudet said. “Nonetheless, I still ran a pretty good race and I was happy with it.”
It is her second time at the Games. The runner was a two-sport athlete (basketball and track) when the Games were in Prince Edward Island in 2009.
“That was quite the mental and physical journey,” Gaudet said during the Games. “This week was a lot easier coming in to focus knowing that I was only going to be doing one sport.”
She said it is a great experience being around the top athletes from across the country. “It’s pretty special.”