Yesenia Vasquez Competes in Powerlifting Despite Being Blind and Deaf

You’ve heard the cliché terms and quotes about love. 

“Love is patient. Love is kind.”

And while those philosophies are, in fact, true, love is so much more than that. 

It’s about seeing someone you love go through pain, and doing everything possible to alleviate it. It’s about sacrifice. Perseverance. Never giving up. 

When someone else’s happiness is your happiness; that’s love.

And if you need an unconditional example of it, take Julio Vasquez and his wife, Yesenia.

“I’m writing this for my wife, because I think she is APEMAN STRONG,” Julio said. “She is profoundly deaf and legally blind.”

Yesenia, 42, is a graduate of Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, NY. She was captain of the cheerleading team and participated in swim and track. 

“She went to college at Rochester Institute of Technology which features The National Technical Institute for the Deaf,” Julio said. “It is the biggest technological college in the world for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. From there, Yesenia attended Manhattan College where she would sit at the front of the class while a sign language interpreter would translate for her. She graduated there with a Bachelor’s degree.”

Yesenia worked at Queens Independent Living Center for a few years until she was in a car accident driving home. Julio feared that in addition to Yesenia not being able to hear, there would also be something wrong with her eyesight. Those suspicions were confirmed when Yesenia was told she had already lost 25% of her eyesight due to Usher Syndrome and retinitis pigmentosa – a group of eye problems that affect the retina. 

This condition changes how the retina responds to light, making it hard to see. People with retinitis pigmentosa lose their vision slowly over time, which has been the case with Yesenia.

“In 2010, she started to attend the Hellen Keller National Center where she learned how to read brail, as well as mobility with her cane and everything else that goes with independent living,” Julio said. “In 2011, she went to Pilot Dogs Inc. in Ohio where she received her guide dog, which she still has to this day. But things would eventually get even more difficult.”

In 2014, Yesenia developed a cyst in her right eye which was causing a hole and obstructing her central vision. She would have two surgeries which entailed having oil injected into her eye… and having it extracted six months later. Unfortunately, although the hole was closed, her vision did not improve. She is now completely blind in her right eye.

“Despite everything that she has been through, she has always continued to workout and go to the gym with me,” Julio said. “She would also walk with her dog to the track at the high school near our house and even run with her guide dog until that to became too difficult to do. That’s when she started focusing on powerlifting.”

Yesenia entered her first powerlifting meet hosted by Revolution Power Syndicate on March 17 of this year. Remarkably, she placed first in the Master Amateur category. She competed again on July 14 and, not surprisingly, also took first place. Her next meet is scheduled for November. 

“Since she can’t hear or see, depending on what lift she is doing, I have to tap her shoulder or back when the commands are given,” Julio said.

Yesenia currently holds the Amateur Master record on the deadlift and squat in the 114-pound division. But her most significant and important victory is being an inspiration to not just her husband, but her entire family. 

“We have two girls, 16 and 8, which she takes wonderful care of,” Julio said. “I think she is amazing and so does our family. She proves that no matter what life throws at you, you can’t give up. You have to keep moving forward and not allow yourself to make excuses. When I read the meaning behind APEMAN STRONG, it was as if you were talking about her. I immediately told her about it and ordered a shirt which she wore at her last meet.”

Strong Love. Only Forward. 

That’s Yesenia Vasquez.