PREVIOUS STORY: The Paralympics are growing and one of the Tennessee Valley's own is helping to make it happen. Signal Mountain's Liz Baker has pushed past her disability and into Team USA's elite group of Paralympians.
"When we discussed doing it, it was like, hmm, maybe we'll try this," Baker said. "I never dreamed we would get here. Super excited."
Baker is super excited for good reason -- she's making history. She's helping debut a new Paralympic sport: the triathlon. She's one of 10 representing Team USA in Rio.
The triathlon is broken down by a 750-meter swim, a 12.4-mile bike ride and a 5K run. A physical challenge for anyone, but Baker has another obstacle to overcome.
even more challenging for Baker.
"Triathlon for me isn't an individual sport like it is for everyone else," Baker said. "I have to have a guide with me at all times."
Baker was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease in her youth. Her vision started rapidly declining from 20/60 to 20/140 in college. Since then, the decline has slowed.
Baker doesn't just need a guide to participate, she has to be tethered to her guide at all times, even in the water.
"I had to learn to swim with a tether to the guide. We have to be in sync, she can't go too far ahead of me or we get disqualified," Baker said.
That presents its own set of challenges, but Baker found racing triathlons without a guide a little too risky.
"I did a couple triathlons back in 2003. I did them on my own, didn't tell them I couldn't see because I was afraid they wouldn't let me in. I did crash a few times on the bike. I couldn't see when we turned, they'd go right and I'd crash," Baker said. "When I had kids, I decided it wasn't the smartest sport for me. I turned 40 and decided I wanted to do an Ironman. I learned that you could race as a visually impaired athlete with a guide and that led me to this."
She didn't just race the Chattanooga Ironman when she turned 40, she won her division. Now clearer than ever, her sights are set on Rio.
Baker leaves for Rio on Sept. 6. The Paralympics run from Sept. 7 - Sept. 18. The women's triathlon will be held on Sept. 11.
You can learn more about Baker's journey, her condition and her quest for Rio here.