Despite losing his vision, Richard Ruffalo set his sights on bringing home the Paralympic gold – and triumphed.
“The human body is a container. Some bodies are tall, some are short; some are different colors or speak with different accents. Some can’t see well, and some have missing parts. But the spirit inside is the same, often untapped, equal and excellent in everyone.”
– Richard Ruffalo
Born September 28, 1951 in New Jersey, Richard Ruffalo had already established a career as a teacher when he began to lose his vision due to retinitis pigmentosa in the late 1970s.
After becoming completely blind by the age of 32, Ruffalo joined the United States Association for Blind Athletes and parlayed his amateur athlete status into four world titles in discus, javelin, power lifting and shot put. His efforts have earned him the Victor Award – considered the Oscar of athletics.
He has also earned 14 international gold medals, 32 national titles, and set nine world and 15 national records. Proving that his abilities far outshadow his disabilities, Ruffalo has won 13 USA Track & Field K-2ster’s State Titles – all against rivals who were sighted.
Ruffalo joined the US Paralympics Team and, in 1988, was named the Disabled Athlete of the Year by the US Olympic Committee. In 1989, he was named the nation’s most inspirational athlete.
In 1994, Ruffalo was named to the NIASHF. He currently works as a motivational speaker.