Born with optic neuropathy in impoverished Cleveland, Ohio, Dartanyon Crockett has overcome incredible odds to become a Paralympic blind judo world champion.
When Dartanyon was eight years old, his mother died, and he was placed in the care of his father, who struggled with drug and alcohol addictions. Throughout Dartanyon’s formative years, he had no permanent place to call home. Wrestling became an important outlet for Dartanyon; another important part of his high school experience was a special friendship he shared with teammate Leroy Sutton.
Dartanyon and Leroy were two high school athletes with disabilities. Leroy, who lost his legs in a childhood train accident, was often found riding on the back of the legally blind Dartanyon. Together, they helped each other through school — Dartanyon carrying Leroy up the stairs where elevators were unavailable, and Leroy reading the print on Dartanyon’s assignments. Dartanyon’s and Leroy’s cheerful and unparalleled friendship added a bit of light to the dark and dreary halls of the poor, inner-city public school they attended.
Dartanyon and Leroy’s incredible story was chronicled in the ESPN specials “Carry On” and “Carry On: Why I Stayed.” The latter shared the story of ESPN producer, Lisa Fenn, who became akin to an adoptive mother to the boys. Called the “best story ESPN had ever aired,” by Sports Illustrated and USA Today, both pieces touched countless lives and inspired many viewers to give back.
As a result, Dartanyon received a life-changing offer from the United States Olympic Committee in 2010; he was invited to learn judo at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He trained relentlessly and catapulted past athletes who had been training their whole lives to secure a spot on the Paralympic team at the 2012 London games. There, he secured the bronze medal. Two years later, he was crowned World Champion, and he most recently won his second Paralympic bronze medal in Rio.
Lisa recently released her memoir about the trio’s journey together, entitled Carry On. The book rights were purchased by Walden Media and Mark Ciardi (Miracle, The Rookie, Million Dollar Arm) is producing the project.
Dartanyon is currently studying social work at Pikes Peak Community College and training for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.