Dog Sled Racer, Endurance Athlete, and
Advocate for the Visually Impaired.
“My blindness gives me a sharp contrast between easy and difficult. It forces me to push past the limitations other people try to place on me………. I push harder than anyone else I know.”
Rachel Scdoris, Dog Sled Racer
Rachael Scdoris (25) is a professional sled dog racer and inspirational endurance athlete from Bend, Oregon. Rachael was born with congenital achromatopsia, a rare stable vision disorder causing profound loss of colorblindness, reduced visual acuity and most crucial, severe aversion to bright light. As a young girl, Rachael made the decision not to allow her impaired vision to stand in the way of her dreams, and has been racing sled dogs since age 11.
Since childhood, Rachael's dream had always been to compete in the acclaimed Iditarod ‒ the super bowl of sled dog racing. After a high profile public debate in 2003, the Iditarod Trail Committee made a landmark decision to approve Rachael's request for special accommodations that would allow her and her dog team to compete safely in the Iditarod.
Rachael successfully qualified and went on to make history in 2005 as the first visually impaired athlete to compete in the Iditarod. But, despite successfully navigating the most treacherous sections of the Iditarod trail, Rachael’s race ended in disappointment.
However, Rachael returned in 2006 and realized her lifelong dream by becoming the first legally blind athlete to finish the Iditarod. After 12 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes on the trail, Rachael and her visual interpreter, Tim Osmar, passed beneath the wooden structure, known as the Burled Arch
marking the finish line. The duo finished in 56th and 57th place, and Rachael finished 7th out of the 20 rookies who started the race. In partnership with Standard Insurance Company, Rachael’s 2006 Iditarod campaign raised more than $100,000 in donations to the United States Association of Blind Association for programs supporting participation opportunities for other visually impaired athletes.
Rachael's story of hope, courage and determination has attracted tremendous national and international media attention, as well as thousands of messages of support from inspired people across the world. During her career, Rachael has been featured in numerous newspapers, magazines and national TV and Radio shows, including being recognized by Peter Jennings’ as ABC World News Tonight’s “Person of The Week”.
Rachael has also been formally honored by various organizations including the Women's Sports Foundation, Oregon Commission for the Blind, The Goodwill Industries, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, National Association of Girls and Women in Sport, The Perkins School for the Blind, and nominated for an ESPN ESPY award, and the prestigious Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s “Above and Beyond” Award. In 2002, Rachael was selected by the USOC to carry the torch to the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
"Rachael is a young person whose visual impairment never got in the way of her vision. She encouraged all of us that there is nothing we can't do."
- Francine Read, VOICES Lecture Series
Rachael was the proud recipient of the 2005 Casey Martin Award, created by Nike in 2001 to recognize the efforts of athletes who, like PGA Tour Golfer Martin, have overcome remarkable challenges to excel in their sport, and advocate on behalf of other athletes facing similar challenges. Rachael donated the $25,000 Nike Grant to the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes. In 2006, Rachael was also honored by Glamour Magazine as one of their Women of the Year.
Most recently, in September 2009, Rachael embarked on a new expedition of a different kind. Partnering with a friend on a bamboo tandem bicycle, Rachael set out to cycle more than 6,000 miles from Alaska, through Canada and the Western United States, all the way to Cancun, Mexico. The “What’s Your Impossible” expedition intends to raise awareness of climate change, while motivating people to define and challenge their own “impossible” dreams. Rachael and Diego completed this challenge by arriving in Cancun in January 2010.
Rachel lectures frequently around the country. Click below for a sample.
"Rachael was our keynote speaker at the 2009 Washington Interscholastic Activities Association "Coaches School". Over 600 High School Coaches and Athletic Directors appreciated her message about the value of eating right, exercising, and real life example of never letting any physical or emotional obstacle stand in the way of achieving your dreams."
- Jeff Steele , Washington Dairy Products Commission
No End in Sight
Rachael was the youngest athlete ever to compete in a 500-mile sled dog race, but her dream goal was to participate in the sport’s top competition: the Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race across the wilderness of Alaska. She faced stiff opposition from the organizers of the race because of her disability, but she never gave up—and finally was allowed to compete with the help of a visual interpreter.