Running like the wind

Michael Kinoshita stands on the podium after accepting one of

Former Gilroy resident doesn’t let anything separate him
the finish line
Michael Kinoshita takes one day off from his training as a middle-to-long-distance runner every two weeks. He hits the pavement or track every day, acting out a regimen that sometimes consists of running up to 10 miles. On other days, sprint conditioning and strength training are mixed in with the distance workout.

An incoming junior at Folsom High School where he participates on the cross country and track and field teams, Kinoshita, has had a busy summer away from the prep circuit.

Earlier this month, Kinoshita, who is legally blind, born with achromatopsia, a condition that causes color blindness and high sensitivity to sunlight, competed in Colorado Springs at the International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) World Youth Championships.

“It was an interesting experience,” Kinoshita said. “These people are all legally blind, so we understand each other. We all go through the same thing. It creates an understanding, which allows people to get along. It was like being around people I always knew.”

The world championships marked the first time Kinoshita raced on the international level, but he didn’t let the magnitude of the moment affect his performance – to say the least.

Kinoshita, who also battles limited-to-no peripheral vision and depth perception, came away with three gold medals, finishing first in the 800-meter, 1,500 and 5,000 races.

The winning isn’t anything new to Kinoshita, who has already had an impressive start to his high school career, but it was the medal ceremony that caught the 16 year old off guard.

“It was a shocking kind of moment. I did not know exactly how to describe it. I just put my hand to my heart and saluted to the flag,” he said of the IBSA awards ceremony, adding that he felt a proud sense of accomplishment.”

Kinoshita, moved with his parents, Steve and Tracy, both Gilroy High graduates, to Salinas in 1999 shortly before making their permanent residence in Folsom.

The Kinoshita family is deeply rooted in Gilroy. Michael’s grandmother is Rosie of Rosie’s Busy Bee’s, which was a preschool she ran beginning in the late 1970s. And grandfather, Ron, is a retired GHS teacher.

After his star-worthy performance at the IBSA championships, Kinoshita was asked to try out for the USA Paralympic team, which he will do in a few months. The Paralympic Games are a movement started by the International Paralympic Committee, designed for physically handicapped athletes. The 2012 Paralympic Games will be conducted in London, right after the Summer Olympics.

The prospect of competing for Team USA wasn’t in Kinoshita’s realm of thinking justa few years ago as a shy middle schooler, searching for an outlet. It was difficult for Kinoshita growing up, who said some depression set in.

“I really didn’t have any self confidence,” Kinoshita said. “People would put me down and then I would put myself down. Before I used to think being legally blind I had a disadvantage and it almost ruined my life.”

Knowing his son was discouraged with his impairments, Steve encouraged his son to get into running.

“He kinda just showed up out of nowhere and things happened kind of quickly,” Steve said. “He went straight from the couch to the track. He’s come from being a very shy kid to being a leader.”

Kinoshita was consistently running a 6 minute, 30 second mile in the seventh grade. The time continued to dip during his eighth grade year, hitting 5:29.

Last year, as a sophomore, Kinoshita said he has cleared below the 10:30 mark in the 2-mile and sub-five minutes in the mile.

The sport has reshaped Kinoshita’s thinking and began to open up new options, including aspirations of a collegiate career.

“Being legally blind became a chip on my shoulder,” Kinoshita said. “It has kept me going these past two years to keep running. And now that I’m closer to becoming a college runner, I don’t even think about being legally blind anymore. I learned to accept it.”

With a course for the next few years carefully planned out, Kinoshita’s next big feat will be running the California International Marathon in Folsom in December. Kinoshita is running the relay marathon with another visually impaired USA athlete Kurt Fiene. Kinoshita will run the first half of the marathon and Fiene will complete it. The marathon finishes in Sacramento. But with the way Kinoshita is going, assuredly it won’t be the end of his road.

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