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Blind but determined

Sightless teen plays football and golf, gives inspirational speeches and has written a book.

December 31, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • From left, McKay Christensen, Jake Olson and Brian Olson.
From left, McKay Christensen, Jake Olson and Brian Olson. (Courtesy Olson…)

When Jake Olson isn't playing football and golf for his high school, he's often offering inspiration or promoting his new book on his life.

While all his activities would be a lot for an average 16-year-old to handle, Jake is blind. When people ask how can he possibly play golf without being able to see the ball, he credits his father with guiding him.

But it seems apparent that his early experience playing sports as a person with sight and muscle memory — repeating behaviors over and over until they become second nature — have also enabled Jake to hit the ball, and quite well.

"I guess we're never blown away with what he's tackling because he does seem to reach for things and make stuff happen," said Brian Olson, Jake's father. "It never seems like it's crazy. It's just a part of his routine at this point."

Jake was born with a rare form of eye cancer that took away the vision from his left eye when he was an infant and eventually his right eye when he was 12 years old in 2009.

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Rather than letting the retinoblastoma, a disease that affects the retina, hold him back, Jake used his loss of sight and his faith as sources of motivation.

"When I awoke from that surgery that took my right eye, I felt like I could go out there and I didn't have to worry about going blind anymore because I was blind and that's how I was going to be," he said.

"If I was going to sit on the couch all day feeling sorry for myself, I wasn't going to be doing anything. I decided right then and there that I wasn't going to let it stop me and that I was going to go out and persevere."

It was with that mind-set that the junior from Orange Lutheran High School in Orange was able to write his first book, "Open Your Eyes: 10 Uncommon Lessons to Discover a Happier Life," which came out New Year's Eve.

"It's about opening the readers' eyes to their true potential in life and making sure that they use all the abilities that they have," Jake said.

He will be in Irvine on Friday speaking at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes National Championship Breakfast, where he will talk to football players from Florida State University and the University of Auburn — the two teams playing in the 2014 BCS National Championship game Jan. 6 in Pasadena.

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