Blind Iraq Vet Wins Outdoor ESPY

Army Capt. Scott Smiley takes Best Outdoor Athlete honors
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Army Capt. Scott Smiley takes Best Outdoor Athlete honors

The 2008 ESPY Awards featured the usual big-names in sports taking home the top prizes — like Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, and David Beckham, just to name a few. They're all talented elite performers, to be sure, but they had it easy: Can you imagine them playing their sports blind?

Best Outdoor Athlete winner Army Capt. Scott Smiley climbed Mt. Rainier without the benefit of sight, which he lost after being attacked by a suicide bomber in Mosul, Iraq. Michael Perry profiled the summit bid of Capt. Smiley and fellow veteran, amputee, and climber Ed Salau in BACKPACKER's April issue ("Shock and Awe"). Smiley talked about his climb to the Army News Service after he heard he was nominated for an ESPY:

“You followed the person in front of you,” he told the Army News Service when he was nominated for the award. “You heard their footsteps and I had two hiking poles, one in each hand. That kind of gave me the ability to keep my balance. But it was difficult taking one step after the other, when you didn’t know what was ahead of you, whether it was rock, how high the rock was, if it was a slippery rock, how slippery the ice or snow was, if it was going to give.”

Smiley is currently pursuing a master's degree in business administration and plans to teach at West Point after graduation. Congratulations go out to Capt. Smiley from BACKPACKER for his incredible achievement.

— Ted Alvarez

ESPY: Pasco Army Capt. Scott Smiley wins award (Tri-City Herald)