Abu Dhabi 2019 — A blind photographer’s highway to the Particular Olympics World Video games


As a younger baby, David Jensen dreamed of NBA stardom. All he considered was basketball — after which at some point, his life was upended.

Born with a developmental incapacity and epilepsy, Jensen underwent mind surgical procedure to assist alleviate seizures, however throughout the process, he had a stroke. The then-11-year-old awoke legally blind — with solely 20 p.c imaginative and prescient in his left eye and none in his proper. He thought his future as an athlete was shattered.

Over the subsequent weeks and months, Jensen needed to learn to stroll, speak and even eat once more. Though these expertise slowly returned, he imaginative and prescient did not, and the athlete inside him remained devastated. “I did not know who I used to be anymore,” he stated. “I used to be simply so depressed as a result of the one id I had earlier than was a basketball participant.”

Particular Olympics photographer David Jensen is legally blind, however images improves his imaginative and prescient. Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Photographs

That is when a therapist advised Particular Olympics, a corporation that offers athletes with mental disabilities a chance to play sports activities. Tennis was the primary out there choice, so Jensen gave it a attempt. Initially, he could not correctly monitor the motion of the ball, however he tailored shortly. “My tennis coach did extra for me in these weeks than the therapist did over, like, a month,” he stated.

Inside a 12 months, he says he had gained a gold medal at a Particular Olympics competitors — an indication of renewed athletic prowess. “Tennis, in that regard, saved my life,” Jensen stated.

In 2015, Jensen barely missed out on the U.S. staff for the Particular Olympics World Video games, a world occasion that showcases high athletes. Nonetheless, he traveled all the best way from his dwelling outdoors Denver to Los Angeles to cheer on the good friend who beat him for the spot. He took his digital camera with him.

Jensen shot a number of occasions on the World Video games, together with the Slovenia vs. Sweden match. David Jensen

Whereas Jensen first remembers utilizing a digital camera round age 5, after his stroke, he discovered that the viewfinder expanded his visual view. However, down on the tennis courts in L.A., he was capable of snap only some pictures earlier than somebody informed him he wanted an official credential.

“From that second on,” stated the 29-year-old, “I needed to go to the subsequent [summer] World Video games and shoot the opposite sports activities as a result of telling tales is what I need to do — notably for many who do not get heard.””

Jensen has spent the previous few years saving cash for the journey to the 2019 Particular Olympics World Video games in Abu Dhabi — which he lastly launched into final week. Since arriving, he is been darting everywhere in the occasion, capturing photographs (two have been printed on ESPN.com) and assembly colleagues — together with Phil Ellsworth, a photographer for ESPN Photographs.

“[Jensen’s] official photograph vest is now his uniform,” stated Ellsworth, who initially noticed a chance to mentor Jensen however quickly discovered that was hardly required. “I simply wanted to close up and let him do his job.”

Jensen, center, with ESPN photographers Scott Clarke, left, and Phil Ellsworth, was a credentialed photographer on the Particular Olympics World Video games. He saved up for a number of years to go. Brian Arnold / ESPN

For Jensen, images is much less about particular person photographs and extra in regards to the broader story and context through which they match. “I see the sports activities area as a canvas for Particular Olympics athletes,” he stated. “The second they take off from the blocks or take off with a swim, they’re portray a reside image for an viewers.”

Currently, Jensen has put his sporting ambitions on maintain with a view to pursue a level in communications on the Group Faculty of Denver. He is aiming to graduate subsequent spring and hopes to proceed working as a photographer.

The subsequent step, he says, is to construct an internet site in order that he can share this imaginative and prescient with the world.

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