Erik Weihenmayer

Erik Weihenmayer is a special young man. He's always looking for new challenges and finding ways to conquer them.

The former Connecticut high school wrestler teaches English and coaches wrestling at Country Day School in Phoenix. He enjoys long treks in remote areas of the world, is a sky diver, a scuba diver, and a rock climber-from 600-foot rocks in California or Spain to 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley in Alaska, highest point in North America.

And he's been totally blind since age 13.

Erik was the first recipient of the Medal of Courage, presented annually to a wrestler or former wrestler who has overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

When his group completed its five-day climb of Mt. McKinley, and he planted the flag at the peak, Erik had overcome a challenge that has defeated many sighted climbers. That feat earned him national renown and visits to ABC's 20-20 with Barbara Walters and NBC's American Closeup with Tom Brokaw. He is one of only four blind sky divers and one of only 12 blind scuba divers in the nation.

He has been trekking and rock climbing for 10 years. In 1987, he became the first blind person to trek the Inca Trail, 60 miles across the Andes Mountains into Machu Picchu. Later, he traveled with his family across the jungles of Irian Java in Indonesia to the village of Kosarek, the start of a 65-mile trek across the Bailine Valley. The group inched across tree-limb bridges over hundred-foot river gorges and scaled down thousand-foot rock precipices.

His most challenging trek, in 1993, was a two-week journey that took his small group to 18,500 feet in the Karakuram Mountains of Pakistan. They struggled across the Batura Glacier, the world's second largest, riddled with avalanches and hidden crevasses. At the top, his guides presented him the horns of an ibex, a symbol of courage and perseverance.

So, too, is the Hall of Fame's Medal of Courage.


Outstanding American
Medal of Courage

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