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UK Athletics

Eight Lanes on...

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Lauren Peffers wins Deaflympic 800m final in 2005
By winning the 2005 Deaflympics 800m, Lauren Peffers became the first woman to hold the 800m European Indoor, Outdoor and Deaflympics titles simultaneously. She will defend her Deaflympics title next year in Taiwan, Taipei (September 2009).
Each E-Inspire, we focus on giving you a quick and painless guide on any subject matter in athletics in eight easy-to-digest points. This month - find out all you need to know about the opportunties for deaf athletes in our sport.



Are there deaf athletes? Yes!  There are nearly 9 million people in the UK with hearing impairments and many of them take part in different sporting activities.  Many deaf athletes compete in mainstream events.  Mostly, you cannot tell when an athlete is deaf unless they are wearing a hearing aid or using sign language to communicate.


So how can a deaf athlete ‘hear’ the starting gun?  Not all deaf athletes are profoundly deaf. Some can hear the starting gun with or without hearing aids, others cannot.  For those who cannot hear the gun, it helps them if the Starter stands in front of the athletes (instead of behind) or someone can use a flag to wave.


But I didn’t see deaf athletes in the Paralympics? Deaf athletes have their own Deaflympics which are on one year after the Olympics/Paralympics and at different venues.


Oh I see, so how old is the Deaflympics and where will the next one take place?  The Deaflympics is the 2nd longest running multi-sport event next to the Olympics (!) and were first held in Paris in 1924.  The last Deaflympics were held in January 2005 in Melbourne, Australia and the next one will be in Taipei, Taiwan Sept 2009. 


Deaf athletics squad
Top class - GB's elite deaf athletes include World, European and Deaflympics medallists


This is new to me. Tell me more:  For someone to qualify for the Deaflympics, they need to have a ‘55 decibel hearing loss in the best ear’ you have! This is the only requirement in the Deaflympics.  Also, in the Deaflympics, track events are started with Flashing Lights, not a Starter’s gun smoke!


I am not deaf, so how can I get involved with deaf athletics? You can still get involved with deaf athletics if you are not deaf.  There are volunteer opportunities and you will learn Sign Language too. If you know any deaf people wanting to get involved or any deaf athletes, please pass on the information here.


So – I’m still a bit unsure as to how to deal with a deaf athlete.  You need not panic.  If you come across a deaf athlete, politely speak to them slowly and clearly making sure that your mouth is free of any drink, chips, food, chewing gum etc. If you can sign, show off your skill, if they cannot still understand you; please do not be embarrassed about drawing or writing things down.  Deaf athletes appreciate every effort you make to communicate with them.


Ok, you’ve convinced me – where do I go to find out more? You can easily find out more if you go to www.deafukathletics.org.uk  and if you want to look outside the UK for more information, visit www.deaflympics.com

Still want to see more? Then email: info@deafukathletics.org.uk