I am sure I am not alone when I say that I have heard of the Special Olympics and certainly the Olympics as a whole; but until today when I was looking for this week’s topic, I had never heard of the Deaflypmics. As a person who works with people with disabilities and volunteers with the Special Olympics each year by plunging herself into cold water in winter, I was surprised but also intrigued.
I have always thought it was important for people to have the opportunity to get involved., but it is easy to take things for granted. While everyone should have the opportunity to participate equally, that is not always the case. To find that the Deaflympics has been around for so long was inspiring to me.
The Deaflympics began as a gathering of 148 athletes from nine European nations competing in the Silent Games in Paris, France, in 1924. Held every 4 years, the Deaflympics are the longest running multi-sport event excluding the Olympics themselves. In order to qualify athletes must have a hearing loss of 55 db in their “better ear.” Hearing devices such as aids or implants are not allowed in competition so that all athletes are competing equally. To address Deaflympians inability to hear, officials guide them by alternative methods such as waving a flag to start a game instead of using a whistle or a light on the track instead of a starter pistol. It is also common practice for spectators to wave instead of clap or to cheer.
This year, on July 26 in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Deaflypmics will be held once again giving athletes around the world a chance to compete. Joining them this year for the second time is Palatine, Illinois resident Jenny Woyahn, ranked number 10 in the world among tennis players and a junior tennis instructor at an athletic club.
Jenny has been hearing impaired since shortly after her birth; she is able to communicate verbally and uses hearing aids to better understand those around her. When she went to the Deaflympics for the first time in 2009 that was her first time meeting people with hearing impairments from other countries. Along with many other talented athletes, Jenny will compete again this year in hopes of bringing home a medal and proving that anything is possible with skill and determination.
My lesson for today; though we may not always be aware of it, everyday people are doing things to make a difference (whether big or small) to bridge the gap of inequality. What will you do today?