, right, teaches a children's martial arts class at the Waynesboro YMCA
, who also coaches powerlifting for the local Special Olympics team, is currently recovering from a debilitating bicycle accident.
Fighting back against adversity isn't new for Tony Cooper
.During a trip to the International Martial Arts Tournament in Osaka, Japan, he
was nearly sidelined due to illness. "I got some type of food poisoning," Cooper
recalled."I was supposed to take it easy that day, but I went to the tournament anyway.I was seeing double and triple the whole time, my temperature was real high." Cooper
placed third in the tournament, despite his
illness - not to mention the fact that the lifelong Waynesboro resident is legally blind.A form of macular degeneration, which manifested itself when Cooper
was in eighth grade, robbed him of his
central vision. Despite what might be perceived as a debilitating challenge, Cooper has excelled throughout his lifetime in endeavors that challenge even those with perfect vision, rising to the levels of master instructor and 6th Dan in his martial arts practice, becoming a certified defensive tactics instructor for Virginia law enforcement, and earning a variety of championships and awards across the state for powerlifting.
Not content with his
own accomplishments, Cooper
has made a career of teaching others the practices at which he
has excelled.Cooper has taught martial arts at the Waynesboro YMCA for more than 30 years, and helped found the Special Olympics Region IV powerlifting division, which he has coached for the past 20 years.
powerlifting team will attend the Special Olympics Summer Games in Richmond this weekend.
currently is using the tenacity and patience he
learned as a martial artist to recover from a new challenge. In early January, Cooper
was struck by a car while pulling into a parking lot on his
bicycle.The motorist, who claimed he
did not see Cooper
when the accident occurred, struck the back wheel of Cooper's bicycle, spinning him around and into the side panel of the vehicle.The martial arts instructor sustained several debilitating injuries, including several fractures in one hand, a broken tibia and tears in the ligaments in one knee.He
spent the night of the accident in Augusta Medical Center
before being transported to U.Va.Medical Center for surgery. Cooper
is still in physical therapy for his
injuries. "It's improving with each day," Cooper
said."I'm getting back in the swing of things.