Man blinded by allergic reaction in contention to represent GB at IBSA World Games
A Sheffield man who was blinded by a rare allergic reaction is in contention to represent his country in the world’s largest sporting event for blind and partially sighted athletes.
Caleb Nanevie was just seven-years old when he lost his sight after he was prescribed penicillin to treat chickenpox by doctors in Accra, Ghana, where he lived at the time.
It was a moment which changed his life, triggering a severe and rare skin reaction known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, leaving him blind for more than three years.
At the age of 11, Caleb flew some 3,000 miles to England for a cornea transplant to restore partial vision in his left eye.
He has lived with his family in Gleadless in Sheffield ever since, but it was as a teenager at The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford where his life took another direction, developing a passion for goalball – a sport specifically created for blind and partially sighted athletes.
With the help of Goalball UK, he has gone on to compete at major European championships, topped goalscoring charts, and become one of Great Britain’s best goalball athletes.
He is now hoping to inspire the next generation as part of Great Britain’s squad at the 2023 IBSA World Games, which is taking place in the UK for the first time in August.
Reflecting on his journey, Caleb, now 29, said: “I lost my sight when I was seven.
“I was living in Ghana at the time but the hospital did not know how to prevent me from going blind.
“I do not really remember a lot as I was quite severely ill.
“I don’t remember what it was like having full sight before either.
“For me, as a child, I was aware of being blind/partially sighted and not being able to see as much as everyone else, but I only really started understanding how to use my eyesight to its full potential in my teens
“But I have never really felt like I am not capable of doing anything. It has never brought me down, I have never been sad about it.
“It has given me the sense that I can try to do anything. Do not limit yourself.”
A keen runner, he competed at 100m and 200m events at club level, but found his calling with goalball – a sport which sees players attempt to score goals by quickly and precisely throwing a 1.25kg ball across the court and defending shots from the opposing team using their bodies.
He began to take it seriously in his early 20s and is part of the sport at various levels, playing domestically for the Northern Allstars, coaching for his local team South Yorkshire, and – through a programme with Goalball UK – visiting schools to teach children about the sport.
Among his sporting highlights is winning promotion with Great Britain from the European Championships B in 2016, and finishing top goalscorer in the Goalfix Cup with the Northern Allstars last year.
“If I am selected for the IBSA World Games and can get top goalscorer again I will be over the moon!” said Caleb, as he looks ahead to his first World Games, which is backed by lead sponsor RNIB.
“I just want to be assisting the team and scoring as many goals.
“We want to do the country and ourselves proud and show what we have got.
“The squad has a nice team vibe and goalball helps us learn a lot of life-skills through travelling and being on-court.
“We always try to make a great atmosphere and music is a big part of that for us. Everyone in the team loves a bit of a sing-song so you will definitely see us or hear us!”
Goalball is one of three sports at the World Games which will count towards qualification for the Paralympic Games 2024 in Paris, which Caleb said would be the “pinnacle”.
He added: “We want to be one of those teams who are in the Paras every four years, having an established team and a strong core to build a legacy for ourselves and help inspire younger and upcoming athletes.”
And there is one youngster he is already hoping to inspire.
“My little boy Logan is four and is a big part of my life,” said Caleb.
“He has never seen me play at a big event like this, so I will hopefully do him proud.”