Who was the first Deaf person to swim the English Channel?

Since completing her English Channel swim yesterday Verity Green has been contacted by many to congratulate her and some have queried if she was the first Deaf woman to swim the channel. Green has got in touch with Two Big Ears to see if we could find out.

Verity Green

During our text conversation with Green she explained that another Deaf swimmer had planned to make the swim earlier in July but had postponed her event due to lack of training. They told Green that if she completed the swim then she would be the first Deaf British woman to complete the crossing.

When researching for our book Same Spirit Different Team, we came across much information about Deaf sports people and we were able to reassure Green that as far as records show, she is the first British Deaf woman to make a solo crossing of the English Channel.

The first Deaf woman to complete the swim, also happened to be the first ever woman to do so! Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003) was an American. She swam the English Channel in 1926 at the age of 20.

Gertrude Ederle – picture Wikipedia

Before that, Ederle was the first woman to swim the length of New York Bay, aged 15 and she won three medals at the Paris Olympics.

According to pbs.org Ederle’s hearing was lost after contracting measles as a child and then in her own words the channel swim left her “Stone Deaf”. You can read more about Ederle at pbs.org and xxx

In July 2014 a team of Deaf Irish women became the first Deaf team to complete the Channel swim by taking turns to swim in relay. They completed the journey in 14 hours and 10 minutes. More info and here

Irish Women’s Swim team – picture Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation

Other successful English Channel crossings by Deaf swimmers:

July 2016 Andrew Rees is the first British Deaf man to complete the crossing solo. Info and at the BBC

Andrew Rees – picture Channel Swimming Association

August 2017 Wesley Nolan, the first Deaf Irish person to swim solo. Irish Times

Wesley Nolan – picture Irish Post

It is possible that there are other Deaf swimmers who have completed the English Channel swim solo or as team – if you have this information please share below in the comments.

We will continue this feature on swimming SOON with an interview with English Channel swimmer Verity Green who is registered dual-sensory disabled as we ask her if she has considered competing in the Paralympics.

See you all soon!

ICSD Chair of Technical Commission Sets the Record Straight

After viewing our interview with former ICSD President Craig Crowley, the most senior Technical Director in the ICSD has come on record to give you information about some of the concerns raised in our interview with Crowley

This post replaces the original which we had to remove due to video tech issues. We apologise for the earlier trouble you may have expereinced in trying to download.

This interview was recorded on 30th July 2021. It is accessible partly in BSL and International Sign and supported with English subtitles.

Former ICSD President Responds to Interim Presidents Letter

Last week Gustavo Perozzolo, ICSD Interim President wrote to national members to request ‘calm and focus’ in response to ongoing concerns and criticisms. In reply, former ICSD President Craig Crowley has made a video reply to the letter to raise concerns about its content and the current situation of next year’s Summer Deaflympics.

Craig Crowley approached Two Big Ears and requested that we publish his concerns. This video interview is presented in BSL, International Sign and supported with English subtitles.

EDSO Members seek Vote of No Confidence at Congress

Ahead of today’s European Deaf Sport Organisation Congress, former General Secretary shared an open letter and vlog to explain the situation about his dismissal and concerns of poor leadership.

VIDEO INTRO:

A brief explanation of this article

Today, Saturday 10 July 2021, at the European Deaf Sport Organisation (EDSO) online Congress, one of its national members, UK Deaf Sport will table a motion of no confidence in the EDSO Board. The reason for this relates to the unexplained reasons for the 2019 abrupt dismissal of Philip Gerrard, a Vice President of UK Deaf Sport who, at the time was the EDSO Secretary General – In 2018, he was overwhelmingly voted in by the EDSO membership on his popular manifesto to help EDSO modernise and reform.

Gerrard has asked Two Big Ears to publish his IS vlog here for the benefit of the whole European Deaf Community as a matter of public interest. The vlog will be uncomfortable viewing for members of the EDSO Board because its is a frank account of concerns:

VIDEO FROM P. GERRARD:

Philip Gerrard Explains reason behind the vote of no confidence. This vlog is in International Sign

During his tenure, Gerrard kept his word to support EDSO by following up on his promises, he identified the following challenges facing the EDSO Board:

  1. Lack of strategic thinking presented and reported on to member countries at meetings and in-between.
  2. Lack of opportunities and encouragement for women to join the EDSO Board.
  3. Lack of robust and transparent financial processes which led to the closure of the EDSO bank account.

After Gerrard was dismissed, UK Deaf Sport and other countries were expecting to see an improvement or changes made to the organisational issues that were raised. But since nothing has happened, the motion to make a vote of no confidence has been submitted.

Considering the amount of time that has passed since his dismissal, Gerrard has written an email and a vlog for the EDSO members to read to ensure that they fully understand the reasons for the vote of no confidence. Gerrard has also asked Two Big Ears to publish both the vlog and the messages here so that the grassroots membership in deaf sports clubs as well as the Deaf community in European nations have full access to what is going on.

As we publish this post, we understand that other nations have pledged their support to vote for this. In addition to explaining the reasons for the vote of no confidence, the motion also puts forwards recommendations that:

  1. All EDSO members deliver a vote of no confidence and ask for an independent review into the reasons for the dismissal of Philip Gerrard as EDSO Secretary General and;
  2. That the EDSO Board engage with its members to ensure that national representatives can fully access future EDSO meetings and events.

When we were approached by Philip Gerrard, we asked him why he wanted to go public. His explanation was straight to the point: “To give members the opportunity to seek reform with EDSO.”

Ahead of todays EDSO congress, UK Deaf Sport has sent in a message of support to Gerrard’s email and expressed their concerns “We are disappointed with the expereince our UK Deaf Sport International Relations ambassador has had, and look forward to seeing steps taken by EDSO to ensure greater commitment towards gender equity and good governance which is something we strongly believe in.

UK Deaf Sport will be represented at the Congress by Gordon Hay, from the UKDS International Relations Group and Valerie Copenhagen, UKDS Executive Director. They will also table a second motion that EDSO meetings (online and face to face) must modernise and be delivered with captions in English alongside International Signs. Readers will ask “Why English?” In line with international protocol, English is the official language of communications for official EDSO business and this is stated in the EDSO constitution.

Coronavirus and International Deaf Sport

Life for Deaf and hearing people has changed this year, the Coronavirus has taken away our plans and forced us to rethink what we are going to do in the future. One thing for sure is that we cannot go back to the way things were before, we have to change – many people are afraid of change, but change, we must.

Covid 19 Golbal
With the exception of Belarus, sport across the globe as been cancelled or postponed. On the whole, people who play sport are optimists. A few weeks ago, very few events were cancelled, preferring to postpone and play again as soon as possible. But now, we have seen how dangerous Covid-19 is and governments and international sports federations are having a rethink. It is looking increasingly likely that no international sports events will take place in 2020.
This week, Yoshiro Mori, the former prime minister of Japan and now president of the Tokyo Olympic Committee has suggested that if a vaccine is not ready for the Olympics in 2021, then the event should be cancelled.

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Yoshiro Mori (Source: daily Mail)

Argentina, France, Ghana and Holland have cancelled their 2019/2020 Soccer Championships and the UK Premier League is thinking about it. France’s policies also put the postponement of the Tour de France in jeopardy, the UCI meets this week. The Ryder Cup could be postponed to 2021 and played without spectators.
What should Deaf sport do?
Back in March, many organisers of international Deaf sports events were optimistic and postponed events to late summer or later in 2020, but is this possible? The World Deaf Golf Championships of 2020 has been postponed, new dates to be discussed. ICSD wants to carry on and go to Brazil for the Deaflympics in 2021.
Can we honestly expect Brazil to host a Deaflympics in 2021? There is no strategy from ICSD, no funding in place. The Brazilian President has put his people at risk, calling Covi-19 a “measly cold”.
ICSD is in a very weak position internationally with the IOC and IPC. When the ICSD president was placed under house arrest in 2018, all funding taps from the IOC to ICSD were turned off. Even now after two interim presidents have been appointed, the funds are still withdrawn.
Russia has been banned from international sport, yet ICSD have stood by its Executive Director Dimitry Rebrov and continued to allow the Russian to run its affairs despite the fact that he has previously been found guilty of falsifying audiograms. Despite all of this, ICSD carries on as normal with no audited accounts, so IOC continues to withhold funds.
The IOC has asked ICSD to move forward and come up with Deaf Sport Reform, first developed by President Donalda Ammons and then restructured by President Crowley with a unanimous Congress approval to go ahead in 2013. Has ICSD gone to sleep, does it think it is immune from sports politics or is it just afraid of change?
International Deaf sport is on a ventilator, it may not survive.

What should deaf sport do?

Should ICSD comply with WADA regulations?

On December 9th 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency Executive Board will meet in Paris to decide whether or not to ban Russia from the global sporting world for four years. The ban not only covers Russian athletes but also events hosted by Russia and any officials who currently sit on governing bodies of sport.

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The WADA Intelligence and Investigations department has a 26-page report that accuses RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency) of removing positive samples from its database as well as deleting and/or altering other files dating back to 2015. The report also alleges that fabricated evidence was planted in the database to discredit Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory who now lives in the USA under a witness protection programme.

If the ban goes ahead on 9th December, the recommendations include:

  1. No Russian Government officials or representatives to sit as members of boards or committees on any code-compliant organisations (such as Olympic sports, FIFA etc)

2. Russian government officials or representatives may not participate or attend and major sports events, including Youth Winter games, Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

3. Russia to be prevented from hosting any major international sports events during the four year ban

4. With draw events already planned unless it is legally or impractical to do so

5. Russian flag to be banned from all major events

6. No senior officials (President, Secretary General and CEO) of the Russian Olympic Committee or the Russian Paralympic Committee be allowed to attend any major sporting event; and

7. Russian athletes only allowed to participate if they can prove they are not implicated in any way by the non-compliance findings.

All of the above information from

There are voices within the Deaflympic Movement who also want to see ICSD comply with this ban because they are a WADA-compliant organisation. The ICSD CEO, Dimitry Rebrov is Russian.

Russian officials have been speaking out against the WADA recommendations and it is expected that some within ICSD will also argue that Russian athletes and officials have not been involved in doping activities.

One of the reasons WADA is recommending such a ban is because of the fraudulent behaviour of Russian officials towards its own athletes and officials, fabricating evidence to try and discredit people. This blog demonstrated in April 2015 that the Russian Committee of Deaf Sport is also guilty of such behaviour, when the current ICSD CEO Dimitry Rebrov falsified the Audiogram of one of its own wrestlers Eugene Golovanov to get him banned from European competitions – this case went to court in Moscow, who found Rebrov guilty and later his appeal was overruled by the Court of Appeal. He remains guilty of conspiracy to fraud audiograms, the fundamental basis of classifying Deaflympians is their audiograms.

Dimitry Rebrov

Dimitry Rebrov, found guilty of falsifying Audiograms

If this ban does come into effect on 9th December, it will be three days before the start of the ICSD Winter Deaflympics in Italy where ICSD Congress will be overseen by its Board and Russian CEO. It is unlikely that the Russians will be banned from this Congress or the events themselves because the ban would have come in at very short notice. But what about the next four years?

What will ICSD do next ? What decisions will ICSD members make next month?

Here are some comments from Facebook:

“ICSD really has to stand and be counted for the rest of our Deaf athletes worldwide.” Craig Crowley, ICSD President 2009 – 2013. President UK Deaf Sport.

“Sad for Russian athletes” Greg Ophel, Deaflympian, Volleyball

“It’s all money, money, money….” Graham Banks

“And what about the Chinese?” Mark John Obrien

 

 

Never Heard of the Deaflympics?

Samsun emblem2017-s-large

As we get closer towards the Opening Ceremony of the 23rd Deaflympic games in Samsun, Turkey this summer, Deaflympic athletes and their supporters are working hard to raise the profile of this event through Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc) – this is generating the important and necessary exposure that the event needs.

This is important because it is still largely unknown in the sports world and to the general public and therefore many people will be finding out about the Deaflympics for the first time. When they learn that the Deaflympics are the oldest International multi-sports event in the world for disabled people, they want to know why they have not heard the name before.

All types of movements and organisations within society are highly dependent on the political and public profile that the leaders inherit, cultivate or acquire. The founding of the Olympic, Deaflympic and Paralympic movements all originate from the ideals, beliefs, innovations and leadership of three individuals who have been credited as ‘founding fathers’ of their respective events. They were Baron de Coubertin, Eugene Rubens-Alcais and Ludwig Guttmann.

These founding fathers all started their movements from different starting points and once people understand this, they will realise how important the Socio-economic backgrounds and the amount of political influence that these leaders had was critical in raising the profile of their causes.

Socio-economic backgrounds

Before the first Olympic and Paralympics Games were inaugurated, Coubertin and Guttmann had already become very successful, wellconnecetd and highly celebrated in their professional careers.

In contrast, the co-founder of the International Games for the Deaf, Rubens-Alcais, in his lifetime, never progressed to become anything more than a car-mechanic in a Paris suburb. This surely suggests that the legacy of Eugene Rubens-Alcais is remarkable.

Without a comparable high standing in society, Rubens-Alcais was unable to call upon networks or influential political support when most needed. Described as a ‘brilliant’ man of modest habits, he spent the whole of his adult life in a sparsely furnished and simple attic apartment. He gave all his time and everything he had to the cause of his friends and others.

He was eventually recognised decorated several times by his fellow countrymen; Officier d’Académie 1930 (Silver Palms) – awarded in France for contributions to national education and culture, Médaille d’Or de l’Education Physique (1930), a Gold Medal for Physical Education, Chevalier du Mérite Norvegien (1960), Chevalier du Mérite Social and the Commandeur du Mérite Sportif (1962).

For Guttmann, his starting point was very different. When he first established the Stoke Mandeville games, he was able to call upon the support of many influential people. One of his spinal-cord associates was Professor Maglio, who ran an Italian research centre on impairments. They collaborated and worked to ensure their Games followed on from the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Dr Nakamura, a Japanese medical researcher worked with Mr Kasai, Chairman of the Japanese Sports Association for the Disabled who, through him, had close ties to the Japanese government. And Kasai’s further influence secured funding for the 1964 Games from both public and private sector sources. When the Mexican government cited ‘technical difficulties’ as their reason for not hosting the Paralympics in 1968, the Israeli Government was lobbied by the ILAN Society (a group of disability activists); and this resulted in the event being hosted near Tel Aviv.

 Political Influences

The political connections accessible to Coubertin and Guttmann placed them in a position of influence that Rubens-Alcais could never hope to achieve.

The Olympics were not an original idea of Coubertin. In the beginning, an Englishman, Dr Brookes attempted to revive the concept of the original Olympic Games but was studiously ignored by the British sports establishment, despite having contacts within the Greek government and with the Greek Olympic philanthropists, the Zappas cousins. Brookes then began to collaborate with Coubertin who used his international society contacts to persuade the King of Greece and its government, along with others, to fund the 1896 Olympics in Athens.

The British government funded Guttmann’s research work so he already had the political backing he required. The idea of using sport as a motivator came to Guttmann when he observed patients playing a game in their wheelchairs utilizing a puck and an up-turned walking stick. The Disabled Persons (Employment) Act was passed by the British government in 1944 and members of Parliament who were war-veterans themselves ‘insisted that the act give preference to those injured as a result of war service’. This, however, focused on those who had become disabled by the trauma of war and did nothing to help the congenitally disabled that had not been injured in the line of duty.

It is necessary to digress here, whilst on the subject of political influence, and introduce a fourth pioneer – Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics. Her first “Shriver Camp” was set up in 1962 and was an indelible part of the philanthropic Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and the political drive of President John Kennedy towards the needs of children and the field of intellectual disability. The Kennedy legacy still remains a large attribute of the Special Olympics today.

Eugene Rubens-Alcais, who was born with normal hearing but became deaf at an early age due to fever, already had odds stocked against him when, in the 1920s, he began his far-reaching friendship with Antoine Dresse. Antoine came from a family of Belgian bankers and industrialists in Liege. These two men formed a unique alliance of interests as they began to build a federation of pan European Deaf sports organizations. They had small networks to draw upon and neither had the credibility of a highly respected international social/professional position. But, nevertheless, what they had was an opportunity to empower disabled people in a society that largely ostracised them.

Eugene Rubens-Alcais resigned as the President of the Comité International des Sports Silencieux (CISS) in 1953 and was succeeded by four other leaders who had to compete with Guttmann’s political standing until Robert Steadward in turn succeeded him. Rubens-Alcais’ successors were also people of modest socio-economic standing (See table below)

Table: CISS Presidents during the time Guttmann led the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (ISMGF)
Rubens Alcais FRA (1924-1953) Car mechanic
Oscar Ryden SWE (1953-1955) Joiner, woodcarver, Sculptor, editor and lecturer.
J.P Neilsen DEN (1955-1961) Carpenter
Pierre Bernhard FRA (1961-1971) Carpenter, wood sculptor, coffin maker and WW2 resistance fighter.
Jerald Jordan USA (1971-1995) Printer, teacher, administrator at Gallaudet University for the Deaf.
Further details and biographies can be found in CISS 2001: A Review.

To read more about this subject and understand how the disempowerment of disabled people and the professional background of Deaflympic leaders may also have been a strong factor in the low-profile of the Deaflympics, you can order your own copy of Same Spirit Different Team here.

 

The above article is an edited extract from the book itself.

High Praise and High Expectations for Samsun Deaflympics 2017

With just 71 days to go to the Opening Ceremony, President of the ICSD Dr Rukhledev has praised the Organising Committee of this year’s Summer Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey.

700px-Samsun_in_Turkey

This is very good news indeed, it is important that standards are continually met in order to meet the high demands and expectations of each generation that comes into sport.

I share Rukhledev’s sentiments and praise for the high quality of the 2005 Deaflympics as I was with the GB team in Melbourne when the organisers teamed up with the Commonwealth Games committee and worked together to use the Deaflympics as a testing event for many of the venues. Taipei were up next in 2009 as they wanted to show the world and the IOC that they too are capable of hosting World Class events and should be considered as a contender to host the Olympics. Again, I can also vouch from personal experience from being there with my family that the organisers did not disappoint us; up until now athletes, officials and administrators in the Deaflympic movement have often wondered if it was possible to improve on the spectacle delivered by the City of Taipei.

By all accounts, it would appear that athletes, officials and supporters heading for Samsun this summer are going to rewarded with the best ever Deaflympics to date. To back up ICSD’s claims, the Chef de Mission of the DeaflympicsGB was very impressed with how things were progressing when he went out for an early inspection visit in February, so things have clearly moved up a notch in the three months since then.

Athletes and coaches preparing for this year’s event should be highly motivated by this good news as things have been very difficult economically, especially when many governments still refuse to treat Deaflympians with the same accord as they do for Paralympians. Whilst DeaflympicsGB have maximised the use of social media, personal contacts and sacrificed training time for fund-raising activities to reach their funding targets recently, other Commonwealth nations like Australia are still looking for funds. The President of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe once said that if you put the athletes at the centre of all your planning and preparations, then they will be able to perform at their lifetime best.

With favourable inspection reports coming in, it would appear that the hosts are going to deliver as Lord Coe suggests. For example, this will be the very first time that there will be an Athletes Village for the Deaflympics where everyone will experience the ‘melting pot’ of cultures and nationalities all sharing the same accommodation to be hosted by the University of Samsun. But this will also bring a new set challenges for the 80 or so, national Chef de Missions and their backroom staff who, up until now have been used to managing the daily logistics of preparation and recovery of their athletes from the sanctuary and isolation of privately booked hotels and other forms of accommodation, with minimal interaction and interference from other teams.

This year I will be joining DeaflympicsGB  as Manager for the golfers where our sport will be medalling for the first time since the games began in 1924. Our hosts will be Samsun Golf Club whose brochure and promotional materials backed up by our CdM’s inspection report reassure us that only the very best will be good enough for our competitors.

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For more information about the Deaflympics 2017

 

Doping in Deaf sport not transparent say critics.

According to an article in Parasport News, the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (ICSD) who govern the Deaflympics have been substandard when it comes to reporting on doping violations by Deaf athletes.

The full article from Parasport can be read here.

ICSD rules say that when doping cheats are found out, the results will be advertised on the ICSD website – according to the Parasport article, this has never been done.

Since 1986, a total of 370 Paralympic, Deaflympic and disability sport cheats have been caught – but only 28 have been Deaf and all except two were discovered during the Summer and Winter Deaflympic Games.

The nationalities of the 28 athletes are 5 unknown, 1 German and 22 Russians. The ICSD has not published the names of these athletes, this breaches its own rules in article 14.4:

“The ICSD shall publish at least annually a general statistical report of its Doping Control; activities, with a copy provided to WADA. The ICSD may also publish reports showing the name of each athlete tested and the date of each testing.”

This makes it difficult for competition organisers in Deaf World Championships and regional championships to know who has been banned – because the names are not published according to article 14.4.

The greater concern is that doping is not carried out during World Championship and regional events – so it is likely that many more doping athletes are going undetected.

It is of no surprise that the IOC and other international sports bodies will not take Deaf sport seriously because this lack of transparency does not make officials feel confident about the reliability of Deaf sport to run its events to the highest standards.

It can be argued that of ICSD had done their job properly, delegates at the ICSD Congress in 2013 may not have elected the Russians to run their organisation if they knew that in 2009 and 2010 a total of 15 out of 16 athletes caught cheating were Russian.

This alarming lack of oversight on Doping Control means that the  ICSD Executive Committee has allowed Russian athletes to compete in recent Athletics events organised under IAAF rules despite a worldwide ban in the sport of Athletics. The ICSD Athlete Representative Dean Barton-Smith has had no reply from the ICSD to his written concerns about this.

The same goes for Audiogram cheating; event after being found guilty by a Russian court of law for falsifying audiograms, the ICSD Chief Executive still remains in post. Two Big ears has reported on this previously.

When will Deaf sport wake up and challenge the ICSD Executive about this ?

 

 

Is the future looking brighter for British Deaf athletes?

Been a while since my last post; took a break as things were getting rather depressing with regards to the governance of Deaf sport internationally.

But there was some good news today from UK Deaf Sport on the performance funding support given to Deaf world swimming champion Danielle Joyce. This groundbreaking decision by Sterling University to recognise the achievements and potential of british Deaflympians suggests that the future could be promising for deaf children and young people who aspire to be high performance athletes.

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 Joyce, a first year student at Sterling University receives funding support and academic flexibility to enable her coaches to design the preparation programme that is going to give her the best chances of performing at the highest level in both her sport and studies.

The Winning Students scholarships are an annual award available to full-time and part-time students at college or university. The funding can be used to cover costs that ease the burden of being able to concentrate fully on training and studies without the negativity that comes with the pressures of having to raise funds. The scholarship can be used to cover accommodation, competition fees and sports equipment.

By working with Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport and sportscotland Institute of Sport the grant funding complements other existing forms of support. The scholarship has eleven core sports and the governing bodies nominate students for awards whilst the Individual Scholarships offer athletes in other sports the chance to get support.

UK Deaf Sport Ambassador Joyce is adapting to a new programme and has been told that she should not expect any big improvements immediately. But she is already reaping the benefits that have eluded so many of her deaf peers. Her preparations for the World Deaf Swimming Championships are already on track for the 17th – 22nd August in San Antonio, Texas.

The scholarship is available to:

  • British passport holders and able to compete for either Scotland or Great Britain
  • Studying or set to study at a college/university in the Winning Students network
  • 16 to 35 years olds for disabled athlete scholarships and the upper age limits are flexible.
  • Athletes who meet sporting criteria outlined for each sport.

Schools and sports clubs should now be identifying talented deaf athletes and working together with UK Deaf Sport and national governing bodies to put forward applications to Winning Students in order that young deaf people can now take the chance to realise their sporting dreams.