A blessing, not a curse: St. Scholastica's Zutter seizing every - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

A blessing, not a curse: St. Scholastica's Zutter seizing every opportunity

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For St. Scholastica freshman nordic skier Mia Zutter, her journey to the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games started six years ago. That's when she started to lose her vision. 

"After my first eye appointment, they told me something is wrong here," said Zutter. "They said no one can see this bad. So I went to a specialist and was diagnosed with Stargardt."

Stargardt disease is a progressive disease that causes one to lose their central vision. In most cases, including Zutter's, side vision, or peripheral vision, remains intact. 

"With everything I do, especially skiing, I have to use my peripherals because everything directly in front of me is really blurry," described Zutter.

That's a tough pill to swallow for anyone, especially for a 12 year old. 

"It was really hard for me to understand what this meant and what it would mean for my future." 

Attitude in these situations is everything. Shortly after being diagnosed, Zutter came to a realization that would change her life.

"I basically tried to remind myself that it could be so much worse," Zutter said. "People have so many harder times that they are going through. I have two blind spots in my eyes. I can do it." 

Her condition,though, forced her to call it quits on her first love --- figure skating.

She was determined, however, not to let her situation prevent her from participating in competitive sports. While at Sun Prairie High School in Wisconsin, Zutter joined the cross country team, and not long after, on a whim, she picked up nordic skiing. 

She almost immediately fell in love with the sport. 

Several months into her first year skiing, Zutter attended her first international Paralympic nordic ski event in Cable, Wisconsin. That's where she got some inspiration. 

"To see these visually-impaired athletes being taken seriously and being super competitive, and mad when they lost and so happy when they won, I told myself this was it," said Zutter. "This is the dream." 

The rest, as they say, is history.

Zutter now is in her fourth year skiing, and first with St. Scholastica. 

"Adding her to the team this year has been awesome," said Saints head coach Maria Stuber. "We're trying to constantly think of ways to get our athletes out of their comfort zones, and Mia does that every single day." 

Zutter skis with a guide, who helps her maneuver the trails. That entails shouting out words like "up", "down", "left", or "right." 

But besides that, Zutter is just another skier. 

"There have been days where I have forgotten that she would need anything different than a normal student-athlete because you can't tell," said Stuber. "She'll ask when she needs something, but she never complains."  

While her vision has diminished over time, her future has only gotten brighter. 

In early February, Zutter was named to United States Nordic Ski Team to compete in the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, which runs March 8-18. 

"It was more about showing myself that I could get there," said Zutter. "So now that I got there, I just want to get some race experience and have fun." 

Zutter's story has shown life can change in a blink of an eye. But as she points out, you never where it can lead.

"I don't look at it like it closes doors," said Zutter when describing her condition. "It really opens them, because I would've never started skiing without losing my vision." 

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