Shane Ryan hopes to raise funds and awareness for Vision Sports Ireland

Shane Ryan, a nearly blind man from Co Limerick, is in the midst of preparing and fundraising for the upcoming Atlantic Rowing Challenge which will see him and a team row from Europe to South America.

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Speaking with The Irish Sun, Ryan discussed how he was born with Bardet-Biedel Syndrome (BBS), an extremely rare condition that leads to vision loss, kidney dysfunction, extra fingers or toes, and learning difficulties. 

33-year-old Ryan’s vision first began to deteriorate when he was a teenager; he is now nearly completely blind and relies on a cane to get around.

Despite this, Ryan is in the midst of grueling training for the upcoming Atlantic Rowing Challenge which will see him and a team of rowers embark on a journey from Lagos, Portugal, down the Moroccan coast, before arriving in French Guiana.

Ryan is hoping to raise both funds and awareness for Vision Sports Ireland, the National Governing Body for sport and leisure activities for vision-impaired people in Ireland, on GoFundMe.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the crossings of the Atlantic and I feel like it’s now or never because my sight is slowly dropping,” Ryan told The Irish Sun. “It’s my chance to do it now before it’s too late.”

While Ryan is fundraising to cover the approximate €14,000 cost of the journey, he is aiming to raise an additional €15,000 for Vision Sports Ireland via GoFundMe.

“I have chosen this charity as they have helped me personally in the past,” Ryan wrote on his GoFundMe page. “Without their services, I would not have been introduced to the sport of rowing many years ago. This ultimately lead to my partaking in the London Paralympic games in 2012.”

VSI reached out to Ryan when he was a teen to invite him to try out rowing. The sportsman, who had to give up GAA and rugby due to his health condition, instantly took to rowing and was fast-tracked through training.

Now, the Irish man has dedicated himself to an intense training regiment, which he is chronicling on his Facebook page.

Day 24 double session Session 1 weights in ul Session was Back squat 4 x 10 Floor press 4 x 10 Overhead squat 4 x 10 Shoulder press 4 x 10 Session 2 ul rowing club I then went down to ul rowing club to use the indoor tank This allows me to get my hands on the oars before next years trip

Publiée par Shane Ryan Atlantic rowing challenge 2020 sur Mercredi 11 décembre 2019

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While Ryan's rowing challenge will begin in March,  his training began months ago. In November, he described his routine on his GoFundMe page: “I’ve been trying to get several hours a day on the rowing machine and the wattbike. I have been incorporating some weight sessions in the gym also to keep my strength up. I have recently been using a high-altitude training facility in a local gym. I am using a rowing machine in an oxygen-deprived, high-temperature environment. My body is forced to produce more oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. The temperatures are also similar to those that I will be experiencing.”

Ryan also described what the conditions of his journey will be like: “There is no room for comfort on-board. She [the boat] is shy of 40ft long and 6ft wide. There will be at least 4 of us (possibly 5) sharing the small space. It will certainly be very cozy. There is be at least two of us rowing at any one time. We will try to utilize a 2-hour rotating schedule: 2 hours of rowing, 2 hours of sleeping, 2 hours of rowing, 2 hours of eating, etc. (I will see how that will go when there are a 10-foot waves tossing us around) There is a device onboard to convert seawater to consumable freshwater. Food is limited to freeze-dried pouches of a variety of questionable flavors. I’ve purchased a few samples recently to try them out on the body: they are as tasty as you might think.”

Ryan hopes that his participation in the difficult challenge will inspire others: “There are many others in the same position as myself who may not realize their potential in sport.

“Hopefully this campaign will bring awareness to the greater sporting community of Ireland and encourage the visually impaired to try their hand at sitting in a rowing boat, or taking to a tandem bicycle.”

You can donate to Ryan’s journey on his GoFundMe, and stay up-to-date with his training on his Facebook page.

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Co Limerick man Shane Ryan in training for the Atlantic Rowing Challenge 2020.Shane Ryan Atlantic rowing challenge 2020, Facebook