‘I’m not sure if this has been done before. … I’m just going to do what the Lord wants,’ says Taylor Talbot
Led by a guide dog named Fargo and wearing her sprinter’s spikes, Taylor Talbot began her service mission this month for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Talbot, a legally blind Latter-day Saint who competed for the United States in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, will serve for 18 months in unique fashion — training and competing in track and field while also speaking at Church-sponsored events, possibly using her musical talents, doing temple work, acts of service and other missionary-related activities in the San Diego, California, area.
“I’m not sure if this has been done before,” the 21-year-old said. “I don’t know if there has been an Olympian or Paralympian who has served at the same time they are doing their sport. … All I know is I’m going to be doing a lot of public speaking about my life, the miracles I’ve seen, and about Jesus Christ and having faith in Him. … I’m just going to do what the Lord wants.”
Meet Sister Talbot
Taylor’s parents, Ron and Stacie Talbot, met as scholarship student-athletes on the Southern Utah University track and field team. He was just home from a mission, she was a convert, and they got married.
Taylor was their first child, and it didn’t take the little girl long to develop a passion for the family sport. She began running on the track as a toddler and was participating in athletic competitions in Nyssa, Oregon, by age 4.
Talbot lost most of her eyesight at an early age, around age 2 or 3, but was not diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease, until she was 8 years old.
Today she is completely blind in her right eye, and the vision in her left eye is comparable to looking through a drinking straw.
Talbot can read in large print but mostly uses audio and voice features on her mobile device to function each day. She is also in the process of learning Braille.
Talbot laughs to herself now when she remembers how she had her life all planned out in early 2020.
“It was a solid plan,” she said.
First, the BYU-Idaho student wanted to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic team and compete in Japan.
While that was happening, she would also submit paperwork for a teaching mission so when the Tokyo games were over, she could serve for 18 months and return with more than two years to prepare for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.
What could go wrong?
One major unexpected event was the COVID-19 pandemic, which postponed the 2020 Paralympics Games until 2021. Talbot wasn’t sure if she should serve a mission or pursue the Paralympics.
She prayed and didn’t feel any heavenly impressions either way, so she decided to move forward with the Paralympics. It was difficult because she was forced to train alone. There was no guarantee of making the squad. She also wrestled with knowing she could be serving as a missionary.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
Taylor Talbot, 21, with her service dog Fargo at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Talbot is legally blind and is a Paralympic hopeful in the …