Home ] Up ]






Blindness can’t stop this cyclist

Matt King teams with sighted Kirk Whiteman to win tandem sprint at velodrome

By John Jay Fox

Of the Morning Call, Saturday, July 8, 2000


Call it a personal mission or even a crusade. Any time Matt King can take a whack at the stereotypes that hang around the necks of the handicapped, he swings from his heels.


Blind since college, when he lost what remained of his limited vision to retitinis pigmentosa, King has had much to prove.


During Friday night’s WFMZ-TV Channel 69 Invitational at Lehigh Valley Velodrome, King and sighted partner Kirk Whiteman snatched two of three match races to win the Invitational Tandem Sprint over world champions Steve Gray and Dave Murray of Australia.


“I see it all the time and experience it in my daily life,” King said of prejudice. “There has been a lot of progress in the last 10-to-15 years, but generally the attitude is negative”.


King is motivated by his love of the sport, its speed, the discipline required to excel and the need to improve that the disabled are not handicapped.


“We as a society should not expect less of the handicapped,” King said. “The most handicapping thing about disability is not the fact that you have it, but what people think about it. To expect less from us is a wrong way to think.”


The 34-year old, who has been racing for six years, talked Whiteman into teaming on the bike built for two just four weeks ago.


“It’s a match of personality, spirit, effort, goal and dreams, King said. “There is a lot that goes into finding the right partner. We are constantly learning a lot about each other.”


Headed to the 2000 Paralympic Games in Syndey, Australia, October 18 – 29, the pair just wanted to have fun Friday night.


“You get better at racing by racing,” said King. “We are here to improve together and to train. This is fun training.”


King, of Colorado Springs, Colo., manages corporate programs for IBM employees with disabilities.


The American and Canadian Paralympic teams have been training for two weeks at the velodrome.


Whiteman met King in 1997, and it didn’t take a hard sell to become teammates.


“Matt is a great athlete, and he outworks me,” said Whiteman, who is known as the pilot of the tandem. “His lack of vision has not impaired his ability to be the best he can be in anything.”


Because of King’s blindness, the “stoker” in the back seat cannot tell Whiteman where opponents are positioned on the track and when they make moves.


“It’s more work, but we find ways to communicate,” Whiteman said. “It’s a challenge, but it helps me to be more patient and more colorful in my explanations. I don’t think of any disadvantage.”


Whiteman, 31, a Brooklyn native, is a master’s national champion, world sprint champion, Olympic sprint champion, and tandem champ. King and Whiteman are United States Association of Blind Athletes tandem champs.


Australian Jeff Hopkins equaled a track record in the International Men One-Mile Final in a time of 1:42.30. The mark was set by Stephen Pate in 1996.


In the International Man 10-mile Record Attempt, Hopkins etched his name in the record books at 18:56.71.


Earlier in the evening, Fione Ramage of New Zealand smashed the velodrome mark in the women’s mile, stopping clocks at 2:01.36. Ramage bettered the 1999 mark of 2:04.31 established by Quakertown’s Becky Quinn.



Team King
Telephone: 719.339.1557

updated 08/20/2000
Copyright © 2000 Team King All Rights Reserved

US Paralympics

US Paralympics