When rower Ben Felten went completely blind at age 37, he said he felt relief.
13 years on and the sportsman has accomplished some outstanding achievements in rowing, cricket and motorbike riding, and will soon carry the Commonwealth Games baton when it comes to Penrith on February 4, 2018.
The Blaxland local said he was honoured to be selected as a baton bearer.
“The CEO of Blind Sports Australia nominated me,” Mr Felten told the Record.
“He called me up a few weeks ago and said I had made it into the final round for selection and then shortly after I got an email to say that I would actually be carrying the baton, so it’s exciting news.”
Mr Felten’s life changed drastically when he was just 16-years-old.
After slamming into a tree when he came off his motorbike, the then teenager was taken to the doctor for a reoccurring headache.
“It was then that the doctor noticed I had pigment in my eye and discovered that I had a degenerative eye condition that would eventually send me blind,” he said.
From that point, Mr Felten gradually lost his eyesight and waited for the day when he would no longer see at all.
“I wasn’t ever really scared,” he said.
“It was actually easier psychologically for me to be blind than to be partially blind because I finally had closure and the fear of the unknown was gone.”
Having already turned to rowing as his eyesight decreased, Mr Felten became even more involved in the sport once he could no longer see at all.
“When I was going blind I started looking for a sport that I could do where it didn’t make a difference whether I could see or not,” he said.
“I had always loved being around water and I knew that if I was fit and strong enough, I could row.”
Since he first boarded a shell on the water, the local legend has won countless titles all over the world.
Mr Felten has been crowned the Australian Single Scull Para Rowing champion five times, the Australian Para Rowing champion three times and won the World Championship twice – in 2002 and 2003.
He was also a major part of helping to get rowing recognised as an official Paralympic sport, has represented Australia in blind cricket, and is now training hard to break the world record for the fastest motorcycle ever ridden while blindfolded.