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While her peers on the Ithaca College rowing team were returning to campus to begin training for the season, Pearl Outlaw '20, an exercise science major, was already in Linz, Austria, competing at the 2019 World Rowing Championships. She raced in the Paralympic mixed double sculling event and won a bronze medal alongside her partner, Joshua Boissoneau. 

“You see people up on the podium who are disappointed with a silver or bronze medal. What I want to hold onto is that feeling of holding onto that bronze medal and knowing that you did it. The color doesn’t really matter—it’s the fact that you did that.”

Pearl has a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa. It affects the retina and causes severe vision loss. She relies more on sound, feel, and experience—rather than vision—to help her navigate and stay in line with the other rowers.

“That’s the great thing about rowing, and I think that’s why I chose rowing—because it’s all about feel,” Pearl said.

She says she hopes her perseverance can be an inspiration for others with similar conditions.

“People always tell me, ‘Oh, you’re so brave. You’re so this. You’re so that,’ and I’m always like, ‘No, I’m not. I’m just living my life,’” Pearl said. “I’m showing people you can do it.”