Michelle Jorgensen, a legally blind athlete, is a Jiu-Jitsu gold medalist. -Image: Contributed

Blind Kelowna athlete wins grappling gold

Michelle Jorgensen takes her division at her first ever tournament in Kamloops

Unlike her competitors, Michelle Jorgensen can’t rely on eye sight once she steps into the ring.

Diagnosed as legally blind, the 24-year-old from Kelowna rose above all obstacles by winning a gold medal this month at the first ever Super Cup Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling-based martial art where wins are earned by submission holds or points.

On April 7 in Kamloops, Jorgensen, in her first ever tournament appearance, won all three matches in dominant fashion to bring home gold to her Alliance Jiu-Jitsu team in Kelowna.

A full-time student studying psychology at UBC Okanagan, Michelle walked into the Alliance Jiu-Jitsu Academy just 12 months ago to attend a women’s only self-defense seminar, taught by Alliance owner and head instructor Sean McHugh.

Michelle was born with a rare eye disease called PFV or Persistent Fetal Vasculature.

“I’m happy to do my best to help anyone who wants to learn,” said instuctor Sean McHugh. “Michelle can see just enough to get the techniques of the day and we’ll of course we help with the details.”

After the seminar, she eagerly joined up and began spending all her free time at club, not just doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but Muay-Thai Kickboxing as well.

Excited to start her new journey, Jorgensen also quit smoking that week and has been smoke free for a year.

Michelle credits a lot of her success to her coaches Sean McHugh, Cody Earp, Kristian Fraser and her team at Alliance Jiu-Jitsu.

“Michelle is a workhorse and deserves to be recognized for the hard work she puts in, ” added McHugh. “She’s a full-time student, volunteers at a variety of charities and still attends more practises consistently per week than anyone else. Michelle with her outgoing personality brings big energy to the club and is already planning on competing in June in Richmond.”

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