Starting February 9, the world will watch the accumulation of years of
hard work and dedication come to a head during intense competitions at the
2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. Each athlete has their own unique
story, but today we’re focusing on those competitors who have overcome not
only the odds but also their hearing loss.
1. Carlo Orlandi (Italy, Boxing)
Orlandi is said to be the first deaf athlete to compete in the Olympic Games. The
boxer was a gold medalist in the 1928 Olympic Games. In 1929 he turned
professional, and in the 1930s he held both the Italian and European lightweight
titles. He was born a deaf-mute.
2. Tamika Catchings (USA, Basketball)
The 24-year-old WNBA star was born with a hearing loss and incredible
athleticism. She has completed 15 seasons in the WNBA and has earned WNBA
Finals MVP honors, as well as the Reynolds Society Achievement Award. The
world-famous Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston annually gives this
award to an individual who has overcome hearing, vision, or voice loss and who
has distinguished themselves and provided inspiration to others.
Tamika writes on espn.go.com: “In the basketball world, it’s well-known that I was
born with a hearing impairment that affects both ears. As a young child, I
remember being teased for the way I looked with my big, clunky hearing aids and
the speech problems that accompanied the hearing impairment. Every day was a
challenge for me. There were plenty of days that I wished I was normal.
“That’s how sports first came into my life. In the classroom, kids could make fun
of me for being different. On the soccer field (my first sport) and eventually the
basketball court, they couldn’t. I outworked them, plain and simple. Eventually, I
was better than them.”Catchings intends to continue proving as much by joining an exclusive club
(along with Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie) of the only American basketball
players, male or female, to earn four Olympic gold medals.
3. Jeff Float (USA, Swimming)
Float is the first person to win gold medals in both the World Games for the Deaf
and the Olympic Games. In 1977 he won 10 gold medals at the 13th World
Games for the Deaf in Romania. In 1984 he became champion at the Olympic
Games in Los Angeles, and he was the first deaf Olympian to openly display the
universal “ILY” (“I love you”) sign on the pedestal during his medal ceremony at
the Olympic Games.The first deaf swimmer to win a gold medal, Float recalls to Sports Illustrated the
moment that changed his life: “It was the first time I remember hearing distinctive
cheers at a meet. I’ll never forget what 17,000 screaming people sound like. It
was incredible.”At 13 months old, Float contracted viral meningitis and consequently lost his
hearing. He’s 90 percent deaf in his right ear and 65 percent deaf in his left. He
now wears digital hearing aids. He learned to read lips, but he was teased by other kids at school because of a
lisp. He tells Sports Illustrated, “Kids would boost their self-esteem by putting me
down. Swimming gave me the self-confidence I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Besides, my name isn’t Field or Court. It’s Float — I had to swim.”
4. David Smith (USA, Volleyball)
At 6 feet 7 inches, this middle blocker has proven he can stand tall against not
only the spike but also hearing loss. A member of the 2012 Olympic team, he
also helped the U.S. men win the 2015 FIVB World Cup and qualify for the 2016
Olympic Games in Rio. Smith was born with mild to severe hearing loss and wears hearing aids to assist
him on and off the court. He also finds hand signals and reading lips incredibly
helpful to keep him on his A-game. “To his credit, there hasn’t been a lot of adjustment,” says USA head volleyball
coach Alan Knipe to SignalSCV.com. “He’s very much overcome his hearing loss,
and he very much wants to be another guy on the team.”
5. Frank Bartolillo (Australia, Fencing)
In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Bartolillo competed in the individual foil event as
the top Australian fencer. On June 16, 2015, the Australian Fencing Federation
announced the addition of the Frank Bartolillo Cup to the AFF Collection. The
trophy honors the annual perpetual competition between the Australian state
teams during the Australian Under-15 Championships. Bartolillo says that being
deaf was an advantage as it enabled him to better concentrate.
6. Chris Colwill (USA, Diving)
This 5-foot-10-inch University of Georgia grad has participated in the 2008 and
2012 Olympic Games. In 2008 he placed fourth in synchronized 3-meter diving
and 12th in individual 3-meter, with an 18th-place finish in the individual 3-meter
in 2012. Impressively, he placed fourth in the 3-meter at the 2006 FINA World
Cup (the World Championships for aquatic sports) and won the gold medal in the
2007 Italian Grand Prix. In an interview when he was 14 years old, Colwill
relayed the benefit of being without 65 percent of his hearing: limited distraction
when he competes.
Hearing your best helps you perform your best. See what our new technology
can do for your hearing by scheduling a complimentary tech demo. Contact us to
snag your appointment today. Enjoy this year’s winter games!
Kris Wilhelmy 11/13/2017 4:56 PM
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