Stratford, Ont. man becomes first visually impaired rock climber to represent Canada at international competition

Chaz Misuraca scales a wall. (Stephanie Villella/CTV Kitchener)

Stratford’s Chaz Misuraca is headed to the Paraclimbing World Championship next week.

Misuraca says he will be the first visually impaired climber to represent Canada at an international event.

“It’s pretty huge for me,” he told CTV News. “Pretty huge for anyone that’s visually impaired, I believe.”

Misuraca started rock climbing four years ago after loosing his eyesight. He has a hereditary disease called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), which causes the optic nerve to die.

“A lot of times I can’t really see what I should be fearful of, so it helps me keep a clear head,” he said, talking about rock climbing with a visual impairment.

After loosing his vision, Misuraca struggled with depression and alcoholism, but said rock climbing has helped him cope and recover.

“I realized my life isn’t over,” he said.

“When you’re rock climbing, I find you’re not thinking about what’s going on in your life, what you did before, what you’re doing after. You’re just focusing on your next hole and moving up,” Misuraca said. “I’m in a good place, and moving forward I feel like my life is continuing to grow and be great.”

On May 24 and 25 he will compete at the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup for Paraclimbers in Utah. He and five other Para athletes will be representing Canada at the competition.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I get to meet a lot of other Para athletes and I always get really inspired talking to other people that went through difficult times in their life. I’m sure, also like me, they thought their life was over once they developed that disability of theirs, but then prevailed through it. It’s amazing to see.”

Misuraca said he isn’t letting his visual impairment get in the way of reaching new heights, and hopes he will return to Stratford with a medal around his neck.