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A c h A m p i o n Continued from page 21

Mastro also holds the distinction as the first blind person to earn a Ph.D. in physical education in the United States. He taught at the University of Minnesota before joining Bemidji State, where he teaches classes in edu- cation foundations, special education, and adaptive physical education.

Getting a job as a blind educator wasn’t easy. It took 13 years for Mastro to find a full-time teaching position. He was shocked, he recalls, when he got an interview at Bemidji State and even more surprised when he got the job. He credits Bemidji State for giving him an opportunity to prove that people with disabilities have much to contribute.

“If you have a disability, you have to try harder,” says Mastro, noting that ste- reotypes are hard to break, which may be especially true with blindness since it is less common than other disabili- ties. Most people, he says, don’t know someone who is blind.

If Mastro has any regrets, it’s that he dropped out of sports those two years after losing his vision. Instead of attending his northeast Minneapolis high school, he had a tutor his senior year and then studied a year at the Minneapolis Society for the Blind. At the time, he didn’t think sports partici- pation was an option.

“We all have our stereotypes of people, and my stereotype of the blind was a guy selling pencils on a street corner,” says Mastro, recalling how he felt about his future when he lost his vision. “If


Bemidji State University


I had it all to do over again, I would have kept on wrestling and doing track and field.”

Always a competitor, Mastro, 60, would love to medal in a fifth Paralympic sport, but can’t imagine what that would be unless new ones were added. In the meantime, he still practices judo and stays fit by running 12 flights of stairs 15 times a day at BSU’s Tamarack Hall, a place, he jokes, where he never gets lost.

His hope for the future is that para- athletes, particularly the blind, have more opportunities to compete in a wider variety of sports. He has been a proponent for U.S. competitions in


  • Medal of Courage,

    • U.

      S. Wrestling Hall of Fame

  • U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame nominee

  • First athlete to medal in four Paralympic sports

  • First blind athlete on U.S. Greco-Roman Wrestling Team

  • Winner of 18 international sports medals

  • Augsburg College Hall of Fame

  • Beep Ball Hall of Fame

  • First blind person to earn a Ph.D. in physical education in U.S.

  • Founder of Northern Plains Vision of Sports Camp

Power Showdown, a newer table game that combines the action of ping-pong and air hockey for blind or blindfolded players. Mastro includes the game at his Northern Plains Vision of Sport Camp that he started at BSU six years ago. The camp is for kids with visual impairments.

“one of the things I want is for blind people to have the right to compete, the right to have as normal a life as possible,” says Mastro, noting that some children who attend his camp have never had an athletic experience. “To be given that opportunity is very important.”

In that regard, Mastro has an ideal job at Bemidji State. He teaches prospec- tive teachers how to best tap the ath- letic abilities of people with disabilities. Instead of being stymied by limitations, Mastro encourages students to be masters at adaptation to ensure every person has a chance to savor a moment of victory.

Mastro teaches students to play Beep Ball at his summer camp.

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