These are newspaper clippings I keep in a blue binder. They were collected mostly by my mom, and a few friends. The picture at right is from the Three Village Herald, the Newspaper of my home town, Stony Brook New York. These pages are dedicated to my Mom, who has been the greatest inspiration in my life. I'll be making this section into a story about my athletic career soon. — g.m.
Las Cruces Sun News Sunday, April 22, 1979. By GEORGE WILLIS Sun-News Sports Writer
Close your eyes for a moment. Now run as fast as you can four times around a 440 yard track. And on top of that, do it in record time. Impossible you say? Hardly. George Mendoza of 1830 Baldwin has accomplished that feat, but his eyes weren't closed. He now owns a world record.
Mendoza achieved the unprecedented mark this past March, in Seattle, Wash., at the third annual United States Association of Blind Athletes National Championships. Eclipsing the mile-run standard with a 4:32.0, Mendoza not only rewrote the record books, but also fulfilled a dream.
"It's a honor to be a national or world record holder, especially for me," the 24-year old Mendoza said. "I started losing my sight about eight years ago. I was in the regular routine of life and all of a sudden I started losing my vision, and when that happened it was like you're no more. It was a big adjustment.
"I consider myself the fastest blind miler in the world, and it's a strange feeling. It's kind of neat."
For Mendoza the transition from sight to blindness was not easy: But with the aid of the USABA program, his boyhood athletic dreams are coming true.
Just because you're handicapped doesn't mean you can't do anything," Mendoza said. "What the program is trying to stress is that you can overcome these things. You don't have to sit there and feel sorry for yourself."
Mendoza's involvement in the USABA is a deeply rooted one. He currently holds the office of president of the Las Cruces chapter of the New Mexico Association for Blind Athletes, one of only two in the state. The other is headquartered in Alamogordo, the home of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped.
According to Mendoza, the Program, which sent some 20 members to Seattle, originated in 1977, one year after its national inception.
"The purpose of the program is to develop opportunities for athletes that have visual problems to compete in games designed for the visually handicapped and also to eventually compete with sighted people," Mendoza said.
"A lot of people freeze up after losing, their sight," three event national record holder and Las Cruces NMABA member Clifton Randolph added. "Most of them trip out because they can't handle it. All we're trying to do is to help them look forward in life and say, hey, even though you're going blind there's, still something you can do out there that can benefit your future in life. If you put the effort behind it, you can do anything you want to."
The effort paid off for the NMABA team during the national meet as it reached its highest plateau thus far by walking away with more than 60 medals in the seven day meet, tops in the 30-state field. The athletes who attended the meet competed for swimming, wrestling, gymnastics, goal ball and track and field honors in three different classes. Class A was made up of those who are totally blind. Class B consisted of those possessing sight of hand movements, but with a visual acuity of no better than 20/400 or those with more than three degrees through 10 degrees in visual field. Class C were those with visual acuity from 20/400 through 20/200 or those with more than 10 degrees through 20 degrees in visual field.
Mendoza hopes to continue to enlarge the local chapter, before next year's national championships to, be held in Macomb, Ill., but sites the public school's ignorance of the visually handicapped as a major setback.
"The program could really get going in the public schools because there's a lot of visually handicapped stu-dents. But they're treated like they are handicapped and they're not getting the opportunities.
"If you're visually handicapped in a public school setting, what do they do? In physical education classes in the fall they play football. In the winter they play basketball, and in the summer they might do baseball. It's all orientated to sight. There are so many sports that don't involve sight that you can get interested in: gym-nastics, swimming and track and field. The, public schools don't have the programs (for the blind) So the student doesn't get any kind of attention or develop any of his skills. It's just not right."
Lola Eustaquio, a member of LCABA and ninth grader al Alameaa Junior High, emphasizes Mendoza's point. "In California they did have large print books and teachers that would help you in all of your classes, but here I have to suffer and try to get by."
Another problem that the program must deal with is funding. Mendoza explained that it relied on raffles, jog-a-thons and donations from organizations such as the Lions Club to meet the expenses of the $6,000 trip to Seattle.
Mendoza added that he felt the club could be raising more money except for one misconception: "Everybody's donating money to the Special Olympics, which they always get us confused with. We are not the Special Olympics. We're totally for the visually handicapped. We're supposed to have a competition this summer in England, but I don't think we're going to be able to go, because the USABA doesn't have enough money. "
Despite the obstacles, the LCABA program has quickly developed into a successful organization. And with record holders like Mendoza and Randolph, the club is getting closer to its ultimate goal.
"We are advancing a lot faster than a lot of people thought we could. Before long, within another four or five years, we're going to have people up there who are going to be able to compete in the sighted olympics," Randolph said.
"People have to realize the capabilities of the visually handicapped and not just the disabilities."
1979. By Randy Weinglass, Las Cruces Sun-News Sports Writer
"The kid is definitely ready!" shouted an energetic George Mendoza. And If you're a miler, or a quarter-miler, headed for the National Championships for Blind Athletes, this is a fair warning.
Mendoza, a Las Crucen, will join fellow handicapped trackster Clifton Randolf of New Mexico State University in traveling to MaCoomb, Illinois for next week's Fourth Annual National Championships for the Blind Athlete's. Winners get a shot at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games for the handicapped.
While both Mendoza and Randolf, an Alamogordo resident, are veterans of the National Championships, they don't have much Olympic experience, Randolf, who will be participating in four field events, qualified for the 1976 games in Toronto, his only appearance.
Mendoza and Randolf will enter as two of the odds-on favorites in some of their events. In others they will be trying it for the first time.
Mendoza, who is classified as visually handicapped (he can see shadows), is the current world record holder in the mile. His time of 4:31.7, which he set last year in Seattle, Wash., makes him the favorite. "I think I'm going to run in three event this year," Mendoza said, "and my times might come up a bit." He said the extra events may hurt his chance of breaking his mile mark.
"In the Olympic competition there is no half-mile event so I'm trying to run in the quarter-mile, along with the mile and a half," Mendoza said.
Considering Mendoza just started this season on the quarter-mile event, he has done well. "I've been running against one of the toughest handicapped quarter-milers around and have been staying with him," Mendoza said of his new event. The Alamogordo 440 specialist is Winfred Haynes who set a world mark in that event during the 1976 games in Toronto.
But, in 1980, Mendoza has been either beating Haynes or at least staying close.
That's what got Mendoza interested in the new event. "It Is a real challenge to run against a tough guy like Winfred and I might just enter the quarter in MaCoombs just to see what I can do against him," Mendoza said excitedly.
Randolph, who has set some national records in the past, will be entered in the long jump, shot put, discus and the triple-jump events. He hopes to qualify for at least two of the four.
As of yet, no number of places have been guaranteed spots on the Olympic squad. But, according to Mendoza, It might be anywhere from the top three place finishers to just the winner.
Mendoza said he was pleased with all the organizations that have helped him go to the national competition and especially with the NMSU track team for allowing him to practice with them. "Without them I'd be alone, and you just can't practice too long alone," Mendoza said. "They are really nice to me and I'm very competitive with them so they respect me," he added.
Randolph has been working out at the Alamogordo School for the Visually Handicapped, where approximately 20 New Mexico athletes will meet on Sunday to start their trip to Illinois. Mendoza will depart Tuesday.
Wednesday, July 16, 1980. By DAVID ETTINGER of The Las Cruces Sun-News
Two unrelated, yet equally tense burdens fell upon the shoulders of Las Cruces miler, George Mendoza, last Friday. While trying to gain first place finishes in the mile and half-mile runs at the 1983 United States Association of Blind Athletes nationa1 finals, Mendoza was also concerned with organizing a film crew which had been tying to capture the event. "It was weird," Mendoza said of his experience in Missoula, Mont. "Before race time, I had to get the cameraman into the bleachers. There was another one right in front of me. I didn't know if I'd bump into him while running the race."
Despite the hectic week of preparation and travel, Mendoza still managed to win two gold medals as the filming went smoothly.
"Up until the gun shot off, I was trying to stay on top of the film project," he said. "When the gun did go off, I thought about the pace, I forgot about the film. I took an early lead and stuck with it." Mendoza, a legally blind Athlete who has lost 80 percent of his vision, is making a documentary about his training for and participation in the blind na-tionals. With the filming of the nationals, the project, which is being produced and directed by Hollywood filmmakers George Zuniga and Karen House, respectively, has gone through its most crucial period.
"I feel very good about filming the national championships" said Mendoza. "It was a dream I had, Preparing shooting for the film was very draining. Shooting the film gave me a lot of hope; it was very fulfilling.
"When I first got to Montana, I found myself meeting the crew, organizing, and before I knew it, it was time to run."
Getting off to a good start, Mendoza, the former world record holder in the event, finished the race in a time of 4:43. The half-mile, which proved to be the tougher of the races, was run in 2:15.
"That race worried me," Mendoza said. "There was some guy who started out fast and I didn't know if I would catch him. He led all the way up to 660 yards. He finally slowed down and I caught up." The two victories earned Mendoza a trip to New York in 1984 for the International Games. He has already competed in the 1980 games in Sweden.
The film, which is to be entitled, "What Color Is The Wind?", will run approximately 15-20 minutes and, if it is to sell to a bigger company, will be expanded into ,a 60-90 minute docu-drama with Tony Award winning playwright, Mark Medoff, writing the script.
"We want to take the smaller film and market it to major corporations to be funded," Mendoza said.
Despite the tension of filming and competing, Mendoza found the experience rewarding.
"All this work was very draining in preparing for it, but it was exciting to film it."
The Three Village Herald (NY), July 2, 1980, by Howard Saltz
A former Stony Brook resident is competing for an Olympic gold medal in running this year even though he is blind.
Twenty-five year old George Mendaza is among 50 Americans who have been in Arnum, Holland since June 19 competing in the Olympics for the Visually Handicapped. "I've been working on this thing since 1976 when I first started running," Mendoza said.
"It's like a dream come true."
Mendoza, legally blind, grew up in Stony Brook and attended the Christian Avenue Elementary School here, and junior high school in Centereach, before relocating to New Mexico.
Like the regular Olympics, the event for the visually handicapped is held once every four years. This year, about 1,800 competitors representing 44 countries are participating in events such as track and field, swimming and gymnastics.
Mendoza and his teammates qualified for the Olympics at the National Championships for Blind Athletes held recently in Macomb, Illinois. Setting records of 4:28.0 in the 1,500 meters and 2:10.0 in the 800 meters, good times even for runners with sight, Mendoza won a place on the Olympic team.
The lean, 6'2" Mendoza was an avid athlete before going blind at age 12 because of an inherited disease. He began running four years ago when he realized that running, unlike other sports, was possible despite his handicap.
Mendaza is the grandson of Three Village Herald founder Bud Huber and his wife Belle. According to Mrs. Huber, Mendoza employs various techniques to help him run. She said that having once had sight and his ability to see shadows both help keep him on course. In addition, he uses sound to keep track of other runners' positions.
Mendoza, a graduate of New Mexico State University, now resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where a celebration is planned upon his return. He is employed as a career counselor for young people, both blind and with sight.
He is scheduled to return to Stony Brook sometime between July 7 and July 14, during a stopover in New York City immediately after the Olympics. While here, he is expected to visit cousins in Lake Grove and visit West Meadow Beach where he spent much time as a child.
Mendoza's aunt, Maryann Huber, expressed pride in her nephew's determination. "He's incredible," she said. "Nothing stops him if he really wants it." Mendoza is the son of Cindi Huber Mendoza, formerly of Stony Brook.
Friday, May 30, 1980. By Don Frederick, El Paso Times
Santa Fe — For three southern New Mexicans, the summer of 1980 still offers the chance to participate in international Olympic competition, Winford Haynes, George Mendoza and Clifton Randolph all will be packing their bags in early June to travel to Holland to represent America in the Olympics for the Disabled.
The three young men, who suffer severe visual handicaps, are among 50 totally or partially blind athletes on the U.S. team. They also are considered leading candidates for medal winning performances during the games, Haynes, for instance, holds the world record among blind athletes for the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.2 seconds. Aside from that event, the 25-year-old Alamogordo resident is to complete the 400-meter dash and the long jump at the Olympics.
Mendoza, a 25-year-old Las Cruces resident, is scheduled to defend his world mark among blind athletes for the mile run. His record time, set earlier this year, is 4 minutes, 28 seconds.
And the 23-year-old Randolph, who attends New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and during summers lives with his mother in Alamogordo, is the reigning U,S, champion in the discus throw with a toss of 29.9 meters. In Holland, he also is entered in the shot put competition.
All three men can discern light and, to some extent, objects, so they participate in a category of blind athletes in which assistance is optional. All three say they are used to competing without any aids, such as grasping guide wires in the running events, and don't plan to change their style for the Olympics.
All three agree their success in athletics has been a key factor in helping them cope with their handicap. That feeling is particularly strong for Mendoza. Unlike Haynes or Randolph, Mendoza was not born with his sight problems. Until the age of 15, his eyes were fine and, as a high school student in New York, he played football, basketball and baseball.
But during his 15th year, he was afflicted with a disease causing nerve damage to his retina. The disease led to his move to New Mexico, where the preponderance of sunny days helps him avoid the sensation of total blindness.
Mendoza, who now works as a counselor for troubled children in the Las Cruces area, admits that initially his handicap got the best of him. "I went through a lot emotionally at first," he says. "1 didn't think 1 could do anything, period, 1 thought it was the end of the line."
When he, was 17, however, he enrolled at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped in Alamogordo. At the prodding of the school's teachers, he re-discovered athletics. And, as he developed skill in track and field events, both his self-pride and the desire to communicate with others returned, he says.
His athletic activity "really has played a big role" in his adjustment to his handicap, he says.
Haynes and Randolph also developed their athletic skills at the School for the Visually Handicapped, which both, began attending as small children. Randolph, who is majoring in social work at NMSU and someday plans to attend law school, credits athletics with creating "a great deal of self confidence in myself."
He adds that through athletics, he and other blind persons are able to "show the world that even if we can't see, we can still compete."
Haynes has had the opportunity to demonstrate that point to "sighted" athletes firsthand. Aside from his ability as a sprinter, Haynes excels in judo. Three times he has placed second in his weight class at the New Mexico state judo championships, besting several "sighted" competitors.
"They were all amazed that someone (suffering a visual handicap) would even try it," much less perform well, Haynes says.
Haynes, who is employed by a state program which helps elderly persons adjust to failing eyesight, complains" most blind people are stereotyped as people who just sit around or play music." Athletics is his way of shattering that stereotype, he adds.
All three men are pleased with evidence that participation in athletics appears to be skyrocketing among other visually handicapped persons, Mendoza notes the first national track and field competition for blind athletes, conducted just a few years ago, featured less than 100 participants. This year's competition attracted more than 500.
Haynes, however, adds that "too many" parents remain unnecessarily cautions about allowing their visually handicapped children to participate in athletics.
The trip to Holland represents the first visit to Europe for all three men and they are anticipating it eagerly. Along with experiencing top-flight athletic competition, Mendoza says he is anxious to hear about programs for the visually handicapped in other countries.
The three also are looking forward to "sightseeing." Mendoza explains that for him and the others, that means not only hearing about Europe's various attractions, but experiencing the different sounds, smells and light of new places.
Monday May 25, 1980. Journal Special - Albuquerque Journal
LAS CRUCES — George Mendoza has a running start on several careers.
Blind since his early teens, Mendoza is nevertheless a world track record holder, an emerging film-maker and a youth worker in Las Cruces.
It' is his running skill that has earned him a trip to the Netherlands next month as a participant in the Olympics for the Disabled.
Mendoza set a world record for his class in March when he ran a mile in 4:28 at Macomb, Ill. That qualified him for the upcoming Olympics. As one of 50 visually handicapped Americans, he will travel to Amhem, Netherlands on June 17.
More than 44 nations will be represented at the games, which will be televised in Europe, Mendoza said. This will be the second Olympics for the visually handicapped; the first were held in 1976 at Toronto in conjunction with the regular Olympics in Montreal. Besides events for the visually handicapped, wheelchair games and events for amputees will be included.
Mendoza's interest in running goes back to the eighth. grade. The Las Cruces native began losing his sight the following year.
"For the next couple of years I went through a lot emotionally and put running aside until I was a junior in high school," he said. Mendoza graduated from the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped in Alamogordo, then began studies at NMSU.
Four years ago, Mendoza turned serious about running and entered national and international competitions. He has participated in the Baylor Pass race and belongs to the Mesilla Valley Track Club in Las Cruces. He trains with the New Mexico State track team, and runs five miles every morning.
And how does a blind man maneuver for these events?
"Out on the track, or even in the desert, I don't have much trouble," Mendoza says. "Remember, I had 15 years of vision, so I already had the skills of coordination and getting around."He also has a vague peripheral vision, although he said it is sometimes difficult to tell where other runners are.
His goals for performance at the Olympics include beating the record he has set. "I want to run a 4:20 mile," he said, "and I will hit 4:25."
Mendoza will leave June 8 for the Olympic training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. He will be joined by NMSU student Clifton Randolph, a sociology major who is legally blind and will participate in the shot-put and discus, and Winford Haynes of Alamogordo, a gold medal winner in the '76 games in Toronto, who will long jump and run the sprints.
Las Cruces Sun News, 1980. By GEORGE WILLIS Sun-News Sports Writer
Despite winning his mile heat by 17 seconds, Las Cruces' George Mendoza wound up fourth in an unusual method of placing during the Summer Olympics for the Visually Handicapped held June 21-July 5 in Arnhem, Netherlands.
Mendoza, who entered the meet owning the world record in the mile at 4:28, won his heat in a time of 4:26, while his closet competitor was clocked in 4:53.
However, after all the heats were completed, Mendoza's time was only the fourth 'best. The winner of the initial heat had broken the tape in 4:21, which was good enough to win the event.
Unlike most mile races held in the United States, where the fastest qualifiers meet in a final run, Mendoza said, the Summer Olympic organizers decided to take the times of the fastest overall runners and award them medals.
Ironically, it was the first three runners in the first, and fastest, heat that won the gold, silver and bronze medals.
The U.S. team put up $500 to protest the awards system, Mendoza said. But the protest was denied. He said the organizers didn't want another race because they worried about the safety of the disabled runners. "They thought we would be running into each other," Mendoza said.
He said he was aware prior to his heat that 4:21 was the time to beat, but the lack of competition in his heat was a major drawback.
"I tried my best, but there was nobody to give me a push. I was just running it on my own. I was really disappointed in the way they (organizers) ran the race," Mendoza said. "It didn't even feel like I ran the race."
The 25-year-old Mendoza was one of three New Mexico athletes selected by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes to compete in the meet. Alamogordo's Winford Haynes earned a silver medal in the 100-meter dash. Clifton Randolph, of Alamogordo, failed to place.
Mendoza said 42 countries attended the meet held in 47 degree rainy weather. He added that he anticipated that the next Olympics for the visually handicapped would be held somewhere in the U.S.
Las Cruces Sun News, Thursday April 3, 1980. By GEORGE WILLIS Sun-News Sports Writer
Las Crucen George Mendoza had "a dream come true" recently when lie was chosen to represent the United States in the upcoming summer Olympics for the visually handicapped In Arnhem, Holland.
Mendoza, who can only see shadows, was one of 50 Americans chosen by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes to represent the U.S. in Holland June 19-July 6.
Like the regular Olympics, the olympics for the visually handicapped and the disabled are held once every four years. Approximately 1,800 men and women from 44 countries, including the Soviet Union, Canada, Poland and East Germany, will be entered in this year's event.
"I've been working for this thing since 1976 when I first started running," Mendoza said. "My head has been swimming ever since I was chosen. I think it's exciting and I can't wait to go. It's like a dream come true."
Mendoza earned the confidence of the USABA by setting world record marks at the National Championships for Blind Athletes held recently in Macomb, Ill.
During the meet, the 25 year-old Mendoza improved his own world record time In the mile to 4:28.0. He also set a new record in the half mile at 2:10. His previous record in the mile was 4:31.7 set during last year's national championships In Seattle, Wash. Mendoza said that he would compete in .the mile at the summer olympics.
In addition to track and field, other events at the olympics will include: archery, table tennis, shooting, swimming, basketball and volleyball.
Also selected to the U.S. team were New Mexicans Clifton Randolph and Winford Haynes. Randolph and Haynes are from Alamogordo and both competed in the 1976 games held in Toronto.
Randolph, a New Mexico State University student, will compete In the shot put and discus events, while Haynes will compete in the long jump, 100-yard dash and 440-yard dash.
Mendoza, who also serves as president of the New Mexico Association of Blind Athletes, said that his accomplishments were indicative of other visually handicapped American athletes.
"In just four years we've set world records and done well in International competition. We've advanced more in four years than other countries have in 20 years," Mendoza said.
He added that he was looking forward to observing "how other countries have developed sports for the handicapped."
Like the regular American Olympians, the American visually handicapped athletes are not federally funded and Mendoza, Randolph and Haynes will be required to raise $2,000 each in order to meet the expenses for the trip." I don't know how we're going to do it," Mendoza said.
He said he was thankful to all the organizations that helped him go to the national competition. He also credited NMSU track team members Jaime Villasenor, Frank Fitzpatrick, Kenny Stevens and coach Art Morgan for allowing him to practice with them.
"If It weren't for them, it would have been real difficult," Mendoza said.
Those wishing to aid Mendoza, Randolph and Haynes in their 'quest to attend the summer olympics should contact Mendoza at 522-2323.
ST.LOUIS (UPI) - A group raising funds to send blind athletes the Olympiad for the Physically Disabled says its efforts have been hampered by President Carter's call for a boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
The St. Louis Society for the Blind Wednesday sent a letter to Carter, complaining of public confusion over the athletic event for the disabled, which will be held June 19-July 6 in Arnhem, Holland.
"We are urgently requesting you demonstrate your obvious compassion for the handicapped by seeing to it that a public statement is made to the effect that these Olympic Games (for the handicapped) have nothing to do with those being held in Moscow." the letter said.
"We ask for your support in allowing our Olympic program for blind athletes to go forward, unimpeded by this unfortunate confusion."
David Wicks, a society spokesman, said 50 blind athletes were selected last week In Macomb, Ill., to join more than 200 physically disabled athletes to represent the United States in the competition in Holland.
He said each participant must raise at least $2,,000 for the trip. The Missouri chapter of the Association for Blind Athletes has held various fund-raising, events to help with expenses.
"We've had some success with our fund-raising, " Wicks said, "but some people have been reluctant to contribute because of concern about the boycott."
The Las Cruces Sun News, 1980. By RANDY WEINGLASS Sun-News Sports Writer
"I've never been so impressed in my life," was the comment made by George Mendoza, 1830 Baldwin St., after returning from the second annual Tournament for Blind Athletes in Macomb, Ill.
Participating for the second consecutive year Mendoza took a gold medal in the half-mile event and now has qualified for the third annual Tournament for Blind Athletes, which will' take place in Macomb in July.
The tournament, which is sponsored by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (ABA) had two divisions, one for the totally' blind and one for the legally blind.
Mendoza, who lost his sight to disease at the age of 15, participated in the legally blind division. He has partial use of his eyes.
"Seeing a four-foot eleven totally blind person stand flatfooted under a five-foot three bar and without running jump over it was something to see," Mendoza said.
Mendoza, who last year ran in the mile and quarter mile, this year concentrated on his specialty, the half mile.
At Macomb he ran a 2:16.00 half-mile, which was six seconds off his own best mark of 2:10 flat. The record at the tournament was 2:15.5, so Mendoza was just five-tenths of a second off. If he wins or places second in the next tournament he will then travel to Seattle, Wash., for one more event. The winner there goes to Russia in 1980 for the In-ternational Blind Games.
The tournaments feature swimming and wrestling as well as track and field events.
Competing against blind athletes from all over the nation were three other New Mexico blind athletes who qualified for the next tour-nament. Over 35 states were represented in Macomb.
Right now all of the athletes must pay their own way to all of the tournaments, but the ABA will be trying to help them as much as possible.
The closest association branch is in Alamogordo at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped, where Mendoza trains under coach Jack Harmon.
When not at Alamogordo Mendoza is out running with the New Mexico State University track team at the NMSU track.
In the future there will be an ABA chapter opening in Las Cruces. Until then, persons wishing to send a donation should mail it to Jack Harmon at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped in Alamogordo.
HALF-MILER George Mendoza brought home a medal from the second annual Tournament for Blind Athletes in Macomb, Ill., recently.
GEORGE MENDOZA works out at the New Mexico State University track as he prepares for national and possibly international track competition. Legally blind, the Las Cruces half-miler recently was clocked at 2:15.5, short of his personal record 2:10. (Sun-News photos by Ray Lopez)
The EL PASO TIMES, Sunday, March 16, 1980. By BILL CELIS Times Staff Writer
LAS CRUCES — Ten years ago George Men-doza, was living a life considered normal for a l5-year-old. He dated, was active in school and ran track.
But life as he knew it changed. Something in his eyes went inexplicably wrong. Today, Mendoza can see only shadows and has been designated legally blind. His vision: 20/200.
The loss of his sight has been blamed on damaged nerves in the retina. "I've been to all kinds of specialists, It's one of those things," he says. Following the loss of sight, life was difficult for Mendoza. "For three years of my life I was in limbo, he says. "I just couldn't figure anything out." But Mendoza has collected himself, earned a college degree and resumed running track. Later this month he will compete in the national track and field championships for the right to compete in the summer Olympics for the visually handicapped.
He already owns a world record in the mile for the visually impaired at 4.31.7: The mile record for a sighted person is 3.49.8. And if Mendoza can pull off a win at the American Olympic trials in Illinois next week, he'll compete in The Netherlands.
"I can still see good enough to run," he says. "I try to put myself in a person who can see, I've been running for so long now that I'm used to it. The only trouble I have is the bigger the track is the harder it is to hear the other runners."
At 25, however, Mendoza says he is looking past the Olympics and Holland. He says he will quit training and running at 30, regardless of his Olympic performance.
"I think my goal in life is to be creative," he says, Mendoza has written a 90-minute documentary on his struggles and accomplishments in track. But there is a problem.
"We need funding," he says with urgency. 'We need a famous person who would be willing to underwrite the filming project."
Mendoza says he already has an agreement with Jose Feliciano to compose the musical score. The documentary, entitled "What Color is the Wind," has received favorable response from many of the foundations Mendoza has written. But the bottom line always is "no money," he says.
The documentary will feature Mendoza and three other track runners at various stages of competition. It will culminate at the Olympics in The Netherlands.
"Sometimes I think my goals are too high," he says. "But man is capable of doing anything in spite of physical limitations.
Because he can't drive, dating has taken a new twist. Mendoza's girlfriend must drive the couple everywhere they want to go. The arrangement is something Mendoza had to get used to, he says, "Dating is kind of a trip. The guy doesn't drive, the girl does. I'll ask her if she minds driving, It takes a special kind of girl."
Friday , May 23, 1980 — Las Cruces, New Mexico. By GEORGE WILLIS Sun-News Sports Writer
Olympic-bound Las Crucen George Mendoza, along with two other two New Mexico athletes, will travel to Santa Fe Tuesday to receive an award from Gov. Bruce King, who will also declare Blind Athletes Week.
King will honor Mendoza, Clifton Randolph and Win ford Haynes for their selection to the United States team which will compete in the International Olympics for the Physically Disabled to be held June 21-July 5 in Arnhem, Netherlands.
The New Mexico trio is among 50 Americans chosen by the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes to compete in this year's Blind Olympics. They will join approximately 1,800 men and women from 44 countries at the games, which will be televised in Europe.
While in Holland, Mendoza is scheduled to compete in the mile run an event he holds the world record in. He set the standard of 4:28.0 in March during the National Championships for Blind Athletes in Macomb, Ill. He also holds the world record in the half mile at 2:10.
Randolph and Haynes, both of Alamogordo, competed in the only other Blind Olympics, which was held in Toronto, Canada, in 1976. Randolph, a New Mexico State University student, is expected to compete in the shot put and discus events. Haynes will compete in the long jump, 100-yard dash and 440-yard dash.
In recognition of their athletic accomplishments, the awards will be inscribed in Braille and large print, Mendoza said.
Las Crucens have donated more than $2,000 to help Mendoza meet travel expenses to the games. But the 25-year-old athlete said money is still being accepted in a special fund at Western Bank to help pay the costs of the two other New Mexicans who were selected to attend the event.
Persons wishing to donate to the fund may address checks to: George Mendoza Blind Olympics fund, c/o Western Bank, 411 North Main St.
The New Mexico athletes will leave June 8 for the U.S. Olympic training camp in Colorado Springs. They will depart for the Netherlands June 17.
Friday, May 30, 1980 - Las Cruces, New Mexico Sun-News. SANTA FE, N.M. (UPI)
Gov. Bruce King has presented special proclamations to three blind New Mexicans, including Las Crucen George Mendoza, who will represent the U.S. in the 1980 Summer Olympics for the Blind at Arnhem, Belgium.
In ceremonies held in his office this week, the governor gave the special certificates, printed in Braille, to Mendoza, and Winford Haynes and Clifton Randolph, both of Alamogordo, an aide said.
She said Mendoza, a graduate of New Mexico State University, holds the world record for blind athletes of 4:31.7 in the mile run, while Haynes, a physical education instructor for Services for the Blind in Alamogordo, holds the records for blind persons competing in the 60 meter and 100-meter dashes, with times of 7.2 seconds and 11.2 seconds, respectively.
Randolph, a student at NMSU, holds the national record for blind persons in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:24.5, according to the governor's aide.
El Paso Times, 1982
LAS CRUCES - While the West Coast plays host to the 1984 Olympic Games in late summer, the East Coast will host an Olympic games of a different kind - the International Games for the Disabled, From June 16-30, athletes from more than 40 countries will converge on Nassau County, N.Y., to participate in the games. These athletes, however, are special. They are blind, are amputees or have cerebral palsy or spinal injuries.
Disabled Americans who will be competing in the New York games include two New Mexicans - Winford Haynes of Alamogordo and George Mendoza of Las Cruces. Mendoza, a middle-distance runner, will compete in the 800-, 1,500- and 5,000-meter events. Since he was 15, he has lost 80 percent of his vision from macular degeneration, the deterioration of central and field vision.
He played basketball and baseball before losing his eyesight, but only ran a little bit in junior high school. This is not the first international competition Mendoza has participated in. He went to the 1980 International Games for the Disabled in Holland, and finished fourth in the 1,500 -meter run. He trained for two years before the 1980 games.
For the 1984 games, Mendoza said he has been training steadily but not as hard as for the previous games. His training consists of running four miles each morning, working with New Mexico State University's track team, lifting weights twice a week and swimming once a week. At 27, Mendoza said, he is at his peak time for running. "It's just fine tuning once you get to a certain level," he said.
Mendoza can see well enough to follow other runners while he "fine tunes" his ability. He doesn't expect, however, to compete indefinitely.
"I just want to run in one more Olympics," he said, "but I'll continue running. I love the feeling of being in good health."
The International Games for the Disabled is the second largest sporting event in the world, Mendoza said, but it doesn't get the attention that it deserves.
He attributes that to people's attitudes. The public thinks these athletes are lucky to be competing at all, and they don't expect an exciting sporting event.
Mendoza said he would like people "to have an open mind that these disabled athletes are athletes first and disabled second."
In the past few years, Mendoza has been active in trying to "shatter the stereotype" of disabled athletes. He has produced a half-hour documentary, featuring profiles of himself, Haynes and Rick Joy, a deaf and blind athlete from Santa Rosa, Calif.
He is expecting funding from PBS in March for "What Color is the Wind" and hopes the film may be aired in June. Mendoza also is beginning work on another documentary, a one-hour theatrical or network film, which will feature two blind athletes, one amputee athlete and one athlete with cerebral palsy. He said he is confident that film, "Visions of Courage," will get off the ground. When television is going to provide more than 100 hours of Olympic coverage, one hour for disabled athletes is not too much to ask, Mendoza said. — Erin Whalen
Monday Nov 12th, 1984. By CHARLES VANWEY, Of The Las Cruces Sun-News
George Mendoza's quiet humor suffuses an evening. Such was the case when he met over a few beers with a couple of friends Wednesday in a local drinking establishment. After a few minutes of idle chat, he left in search of the men's room. His friend and a junior-lightweight boxing contender, Louie Burke, caught him as he was exiting the bar. He'd missed the men's room altogether.
Mendoza, a world-class, middle distance runner and a gold medallist in the 1,500 meter event of the 1984 Olympics for the Physically Disabled, is almost totally blind. He lost most of his vision to a rare disease when he was 15. What little sight he does have sometimes gets him into trouble. He told of once finding the restroom with no difficulty at all - but he only made out the last three letters of the "women" sign on the door.
"I can see in a couple of spots. It's like looking through a straw," Mendoza said.
Mendoza, 28, bubbled over with excitement about the film that is being made about him "Through Others' Eyes." The film, to be narrated by academy award-winner Robert Duvall, will follow Mendoza as he prepares for the Baylor Pass Run, a rugged, ten kilometer course through a high mountain pass overlooking Las Cruces.
Burke, also featured in the film, will accompany him in the actual race as his guide. The race Saturday will be the culmination of the film.
For a long time, the film project hung fire, Mendoza said. Funds were hard to come by, but now, with the help of the National Council for La Raza, Coors Corporation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the production is well underway. "Eyes" will be presented on PBS' critically acclaimed "Frontline" series in the spring of 1985.
Country singer Willie Nelson is considering doing the soundtrack, but Mendoza had no certain word on the matter.
Jim Deckerd is the director. He is well known for the "up-close and-personal" spots he did for ABC's "Road to Los Angeles" series, a part of the network's 1984 Olympics coverage.
Burke drank his beer slowly. He trains continuously in expectation of a fight with Lightweight Champion Hector "Macho" Comacho or former champion Bobby Chacon. Burke, 22, met Mendoza after he took the ESPN junior lightweight title from Freddie Roach in March, 1983. "He came to a reception held in honor of the governor declaring a New Mexico Louie Burke Day," Burke said.
"We got to talking and decided to run together. He was training for the 1984 Olympics for the Physically Disabled at the time. We got to know each other over the months. "You talk a lot running the miles we have and George asked me to be his race guide," Burke continued.
"He tells me where the rocks are," Mendoza interjected.
"I'll run You off a cliff," Burke rejoined. Burke, who recently lost a controversial decision to Charlie Brown in Pan Am Center, said that Mendoza had been an inspiration to him. "I admire him, because he's overcome that handicap. He hasn't let blindness slow him down. If he can overcome blindness, I can overcome anything."
Mendoza moved to New Mexico from his native New York in 1970, and now lives with his wife and young son.
"Through Other's Eyes," termed a "theatrical documentary" by Mendoza, is due to be completed by the end of February.
I first met George Mendoza, Jr., in October, 1992, when he visited the set of my TV Series, Medicine Woman, at Malibu State Creek Park in California. During a break in filming, we discussed at length his youth, the onset of his blindness at age fifteen, his continued love for running, and a book-in-progress about his life which he hoped would be an inspiration to others who are visually impaired. Like George, and 400,000 other visually-impaired persons in America, a very close member of my family is legally blind. I have been a spokesperson for the visually impaired for most of my life. I am a former president of the RP Foundation to Fight Blindness, and, just as George does, I continue in my efforts to raise research funds to improve the lives of those who have been afflicted by visual illness.
The book George an I discussed that day is now a reality. Running toward the Light is the true story of George's long journey back from the darkness into the light. I find the book tremendously important--not only for its dramatic impact, but for the indefatigable courage of the man who is its subject. So many of us are tempted to crumble under what we perceive to be unbearable burdens. It's an inspiration and a challenge to read about one who has triumphed over that , and so much more.