Crystal Lake native Sarah Chung represented the U.S. and NIU during the 2016 Paralympics held in Brazil. For the 27-year-old judo athlete, taking part in the Rio de Janeiro summer games was an “indescribable” event that she will always remember.
“The atmosphere of the athlete village and competition venue can be described as electric,” Chung said. So many people of varying abilities and cultures were present. I learned a lot about myself and the human spirit.”
Chung was born with bilateral optic nerve hypoplasia and is legally blind. Growing up, she tried a number of sports including taekwondo and added judo to her repertoire while a teenager.
“It was kind of a spur of the moment thing,” Chung said. “I was in a transitioning phase in my life and wanted something different. I wanted to learn a new martial art and was told that judo was great for folks who are blind or visually impaired.”
Chung worked with Howard Wilson, a judoka from Menomonee Judo Club, and the rest is history.
“I took a leap of faith when it came to judo and I had no idea it would take me this far in such a short amount of time,” Chung said. “I am grateful to those who have believed in me from day one; they believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Chung graduated from NIU in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She is currently a graduate student at Adler University, studying counseling with a focus on sport and health psychology.
“I owe my success to my professors at NIU and those who have supported me throughout this journey,” Chung said, “and (Madelyn) Anderson, my adviser, who was a pillar in shaping me into the person I am today.”