How a blind teen worked to become a champion bowler

Sports

MODESTO, Calif. (KRON) – This is an inspirational story about a champion bowler who can barely see all the pins he knocks down, and yet, he keeps going. 

The sound of a strike from Modesto native and champion bowler Jacob Gaddam — Jacob himself can’t hear it, without using his hearing aids, nor can he see the pins fall.

“Those of us that can see, we put too much thought into it. He just throws the ball the same way every time,” Sherry Gaddam said. 

“Throw the ball as hard as you can and hope for the best,” Jacob Gaddam said. 

Of course, there’s a little more to it than that. 

Jacob was born with hearing and vision impairments. He can make out shapes and lighting contrasts but is legally blind. 

The 17-year-old relies mostly on muscle memory when he’s on the lanes. 

“He knows exactly if he puts his hand on the ball return, right hand, and he knows exactly with the length of his hand, where his right foot and his left foot is gonna be exactly on the lane,” Scott Bartlow said. 

That technique, combined with hours upon hours of practice, has paid off. 

Jacob has qualified for Youth Nationals four years in a row and earned scholarship money for college playing in tournaments. 

“He doesn’t have the word ‘can’t’ in his vocabulary. Because of his disability a lot of people say, oh, he can’t do that. But he’ll prove you wrong every time,” Bartlow said. 

One of Jacob’s goals is to help people better understand blindness.

“We’ve had to encounter over his years that people say oh, he’s not blind. Because he can walk, and he’s not running into the wall, or running into a table but that’s not true, there’s a lot of people just like him that are blind,” Sherry said. 

Maybe not just like Jacob, who’s become known not only for his skill on the lanes but also for his signature hat — the giant poop emoji. 

He owns around 15 in different colors.

“They’re really comfy to wear, and they can also be used as a pillow, so that’s why I wear them all the time, it’s cause whenever I need a pillow I have a pillow on top of my head,” Jacob said. 

Jacob isn’t sure if he wants to pursue a professional bowling career, he just graduated from the California Virtual Academy and plans to attend the Helen Keller Institute in New York.

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