Never Heard of the Deaflympics?

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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 by giving your contact details 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.

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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

 

The BBC Challenges the ICSD President.

In the recent BBC television programme See Hear, the president of the ICSD, Valery Rukhledev was challenged on his attitude towards working with the International Paralympic Committee.

The programme, which aired on 7th September 2016 celebrated the opening of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio by asking questions about Deaf people and the Paralympics. Unfortunately, this programme is only available to be viewed on the BBC iplayer for a limited time, so I am going to explain, for posterity, how the See Hear programme challenged the ICSD.

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Picture: Craig Crowley, President UK Deaf Sport

Craig Crowley, President of UK Deaf Sport and former president of the ICSD and myself, made it very clear to viewers that the ICSD must open up a working dialogue with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to look forward into the future and investigate the possibilities of Deaf sports appearing in future Paralympic Games.

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Picture: Claire Stancliffe, Captain, GB Womens Deaf Football.

Claire Stancliffe, captain of the GB Women’s Football team repeated the refrain that the lack of recognition from the UK government for the Deaflympics means that Deaf athletes have to spend time and energy on fundraising and this is taking their focus away from training and preparing properly for competitions.

Craig Crowley said it was “regrettable” that the ICSD President will not speak to the IPC because the ICSD cannot continue alone in trying to support and run the Deaflympic games. He compared this to the Paralympics, which would not be able to continue as it is without the support of the IOC and its monopoly on sport. Crowley said, that until there is a relationship between the Deaflympics and the Paralympics, Deaf sport and its athletes will continue to be disadvantaged.

We have all seen how important it is for the IPC to have the support of the IOC when the 2016 Paralympics were threatened in Rio due to financial difficulties, it has been the IOC monopoly that put pressure on the hosts to salvage what they could of the 2016 Paralympics and allowed the majority of countries to take part. Please be under no illusion, the Deaflympic games faces increasing financial pressures every year, and it will not get better. Each games will become riskier and more challenging to organise.

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Picture: Dr Valery Rukhledev (on the left for those who don’t know), President ICSD

See Hear asked ICSD President Dr Valery Rukhledev if he could see a future where the deaf were in the Paralympics. His answer was evasive – he said that he respected those who wanted to merge with the Paralympics and he respected those who preferred to compete separately.

See Hear challenged Dr Rukhledev to explain why he did not agree with delegates at a recent IOC meeting who were open to the idea of the Deaf competing in the Paralympics. Once again he was non-committal, he stated the very obvious that at the moment it would be impossible to achieve this because there needs to be a discussion and dialogue.

Rukhledev was then challenged to explain why there was nothing in the recent MOU between the ICSD and IOC to develop a relationship and dialogue with the IPC. His answer has infuriated viewers and highlighted how he is not prepared to take the responsibility. he claims that there is “no communication at all, the IPC has not shown any support to the Deaf.” he explained that “They (IPC) kept quiet, making it difficult for me.”  Rukhledev needs to show more courage.

Although he said that he was prepared to sit down and talk with the president of the IPC, Rukhledev’s next comments demonstrated his arrogance and illusions of grandeur because he believes that it is not his job to ask for the meeting, it was up to the IPC to approach him instead.

When asked why he was not going to make the first move, Rukhledev, showed how much of a political dinosaur he was, he appeared narrow-minded and unimaginative in his approach for the future of Deaf sport around the world. He wants to see the IPC proposal first then discuss it and ICSD Congress and only after that would he be willing to meet with the IPC President!

See Hear ramped up the challenge, asking him why he was not prepared to make the first move to ‘grasp the opportunity’ to work with the IPC and get deaf sport into the Paralympic games so that deaf athletes would benefit from increased media coverage and global visibility.

Rukhledev claimed that the MAJORITY of Deaf people still agreed with the original CISS position held in the 1980s and want to see 20 deaf sports in the Paralympic programme. He said if this was to happen then he would agree to the deaf competing in the Paralympics. I replied to this on the programme by explaining that the world has changed in the last 20-30 years and we must go into discussions with the IPC with an open mind. This way, the discussions will be about exploring opportunities of mutual benefit and not dragging up the old days and starting trying to barter their way in.

In “Same Spirit Different Team” I described how Craig Crowley as ICSD President  was proactive in meeting with the IOC and the IPC in equal measure. His discussions were about the development of the MOU, designed to protect the name of the Deaflympics under the rights of the Olympic partners, to open doors for marketing media and sponsorship. But this will not come about though the current MOU unless there is a relationship with the IPC. The IOC cannot afford to fund the Paralympics and the Deaflympics separately at different venues and in separate years. There is opportunity to make greater use of the Olympic facilities in tandem.

Deaf athletes like Claire Stancliffe would like to see the Deaflympics and the Paralympics merge so that it gives Deaf athletes equality and more opportunities to be able to train more.

At the end of the programme, a statement form the IPC suggested that the door may be open, ajar, for the ICSD to become a member of the IPC otherwise the current situation ‘forfeits’ the deaf from competing in the Paralympics.

Personally, I don’t think we should be be trying to combine the Deaflympics and Paralympics into one convoluted event, there is already too much pressure on the IPC as it is with complicated classifications and different disability types competing for a place on the starting line. The IPC are continually cutting back on sports and events, trying to be as economical and profitable as possible. So it is about time that the ICSD appointed a president who was a real visionary, who has a proper imagination to explore realistic possibilities because Deaf sport cannot survive by relying on the same old things. I am not sure a Russian would listen to a  President of the United States who one said once said:

“The greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result.” (Barrack Obama)

I plead with the ICSD Executive to stop playing Russian Roulette with Deaf sport, climb down from the high-horse, moral ground, get realistic and take on some realism because you need to go and knock on the door of the IPC before it is too late. Do not wait until you are thirsty before digging a well.

I would like to ask our readers around the world, is the ICSD correct to challenge for 20 deaf sports in the Paralympics or should it be more sensible in its strategy ? Please let us know what you think.

 

 

Will Russians be banned from the 2017 Deaflympics?

This afternoon, the International Paralympic Committee banned the entire Russian team from competing in next month’s Paralympic Games in Rio.

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Sir Philip Craven (photo sportanddev.org)

Sir Philip Craven, IPC President said: “Tragically this situation is not about athletes cheating a system, but about a State-run system that is cheating the athletes. The doping culture that is polluting  Russian sport stems from the Russian government and has now been uncovered in not one but two independent reports commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.” Full statement

Will the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf follow suit and make a decision to exclude Russian athletes from competing at the 2017 Deaflympics in Turkey next summer?

On 25th July, we commented on the need for ICSD to consider and follow actions taken by others in the IOC family. Whilst many would consider the IOC decision making not robust enough to stem doping, we feel that the IPC decision to enforce a blanket ban on the Russian team to be the right action to take.

The ICSD does not have the finances and resources in place to enforce anti-doping and therefore it is highly likely that cheating is taking place at the Deaflympics. The Russian Deaflympic officials are not shy about cheating, they have been taken to court for falsifying an audiogram of one of their wrestlers. They cannot be trusted with the task of Executive control of the ICSD and the Deaflympic Games.

As we reported on 27th April this year, the ICSD has not published the names of Deaf athletes who returned positive doping tests on its website. This is the responsibility of the Chief Executive – a Russian, most of the athletes who would be on this list are – Russian.

It is now time for the ICSD Board to take back control of the Deaflympic movement, suspend its President Valery Rukhledev and Dimitry Rebrov, its Chief Executive at the very least and restore some confidence amongst its membership.

Two Big Ears calls upon representatives of ICSD national federations to unite and demand that the ICSD Board take action. Do not allow the Russians to ignore your concerns for a second time, do not let the Russians dismiss you so easily as they did last year.

 

 

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Deaf News: Four Deaf women cycle 300 miles from London to Paris raising money for Deaf children — The Limping Chicken

To support the cyclists, donate here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/deaf-roots-and-pride Bronwynne Buxton, Caroline Fearon, Wendy Scott and Abbie Willis have completed the British Deaf Association’s […]

via Deaf News: Four Deaf women cycle 300 miles from London to Paris raising money for Deaf children — The Limping Chicken

Will the IOC Sanctions on Russia affect the Deaflympics ?

The IOC Executive Board has laid down special rules for International Sports Federations to follow when deciding whether or not any Russian athlete can compete in their sport during the Rio Olympics. But what does this mean for the Deaflympics in 2017 – should the ICSD follow the same ruling as the IOC and IPC ? If so, does the doping system in place within the ICSD stand up to scrutiny – can it cope with such conditions ?

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First and foremost, the IOC has granted the ICSD membership into the Olympic Movement and therefore it should follow the decisions of the IOC Executive Board and apply the same sanctions to the Summer Deaflympics in 2017. If it cannot do this, then the ICSD must be held in contempt of a fundamental rule of the Olympic Charter to protect clean athletes and the integrity of sport.

It must apply these sanctions to the Deaflympics of 2017, because it is likely that the IOC sanctions will remain in place until the 2018 Winter Olympics at least.

The most compelling reason for applying IOC conditions on Russia is because their Deaflympic athletes are state-sponsored and thus by association are placed under suspicion to the same degree as their compatriots in the Olympic and Paralympic camps where some Deaflympic athletes share the same training facilities and coaches.

After deliberating, the IOC EB decided that it “will not accept any entry of any Russian athlete into the Olympic games in Rio 2016 unless the athlete can meet the conditions set out below.” (Decision of the IOC Executive Board)

2. Entry will be accepted by the IOC only if an athlete is able to provide evidence to the full satisfaction of his or her International Federation (IF) in relation to the following criteria:

• The IFs*, when establishing their pool of eligible Russian athletes, to apply the World Anti-Doping Code and other principles agreed by the Olympic Summit (21 June 2016).

• The absence of a positive national anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient by the IFs. 

• The IFs should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field.  

• The IFs to examine the information contained in the IP Report, and for such purpose seek from WADA the names of athletes and National Federations (NFs) implicated. Nobody implicated, be it an athlete, an official, or an NF, may be accepted for entry or accreditation for the Olympic Games.

• The IFs will also have to apply their respective rules in relation to the sanctioning of entire NFs. 

It is going to be extremely difficult for the ICSD to apply the four criteria in condition 1. This is because very few Deaflympic athletes are subjected to out-of-competition testing. The lack of political support from national governments to apply equal status on all IOC, IPC and ICSD athletes means that there are no funds available within International Federations to subject Deaflympic athletes to testing.

But this cannot be a reason for the ICSD to claim that it cannot abide by the IOC Executive Board ruling because the second criteria above states that ‘The absence of a positive anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient by the IF’ in other words, if Russian athletes have never been tested, then they cannot prove that they are clean because they are under suspicion as state-sponsored athletes.

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3. The ROC is not allowed to enter any athlete for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 who has ever been sanctioned for doping, even if he or she has served the sanction. 

Condition 3 can be applied, without appeal, all Russian Deaflympic athletes who have ever been sanctioned for doping should not be allowed to compete in the Summer Deaflympics, Samsun 2017. Furthermore, the ICSD should put in place measures to ensure that Russian athletes cannot bypass this ruling by trying to compete under a different name, this is something that can quite easily be done as we cannot trust the Russian Deaflympic officials not to do this as they have already been found guilty, by Russian courts of manipulating audiograms.

4. The IOC will accept an entry by the ROC only if the athlete’s IF is satisfied that the evidence provided meets conditions 2 and 3 above and if it is upheld by an expert from the CAS list of arbitrators appointed by an ICAS Member, independent from any sports organisation involved in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. 

The problem with condition 4 is that whilst Deaflympic sports compete under the rules and adaptations approved by their respective IF’s, there are International Deaf Sport Organisations who fall very well short of running a tight ship when it comes to following IF rules or managing competitions to IF standards or even knowing what ICAS is.

5. The entry of any Russian athlete ultimately accepted by the IOC will be subject to a rigorous additional out-of-competition testing programme in coordination with the relevant IF and WADA. Any non-availability for this programme will lead to the immediate withdrawal of the accreditation by the IOC. 

ICSD cannot afford out-of-competition testing, so it will have to play safe and not allow Russian athletes to compete. Unless of course the Russian state will provide the funds to ICSD to enable it to appoint non-Russian WADA officials to test its athletes.

To close, I put this challenge to the ICSD President Rukhledev:

Sir, you were appointed by the ICSD membership to ensure equality and integrity for Deaflympic sport within the Olympic Movement, I put it to you, that you should seek financial support from the Russian state to fully fund a full, global, in-and out of competition anti-doping programme of the ICSD indefinitely to be carried out by non-Russian laboratories. This act of support to the Deaflympic Movement might go some way to demonstrate to the world that you and your country take anti-doping seriously.

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The English Channel has a new conquerer!

With exactly a year to go to the opening ceremony for the 2017 Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey, former Great Britain deaf swimmer Andrew Rees has become the first deaf British swimmer to successfully complete a solo Channel swim.

News has been travelling so fast through social media and deaf networks that Two Big Ears have not had time to keep up! So,with permission,we are sharing the press release sent in by Margaret Baxter, Secretary, Great Britain Deaf Swimming Club, who takes up the story from here.

Andrew, who represented GB’s deaf swimming team in the 1990’s, set out from Dover yesterday morning, supported by his boat, the Louise Jane, and completed the swim in a little under 15 hours.

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Andrew Rees, Channel swimmer. Photo by Chris Ratcliffe.

 

Andrew, who is Welsh but lives in East Sussex, has trained with Brighton Swimming Club’s Sea Swimming Coach, Fiona Southwell, herself a successful channel swimmer. He has been preparing all season for this event, going to Majorca to train earlier in the year, and completing many hours of preparation. Under the rules of the Channel Swimming Association, he was allowed to wear a pair of ordinary swimming trunks, a hat and goggles to complete the gruelling endurance event, and has been on standby since 8th July, awaiting favourable conditions before being allowed to start his swim at Samphire Hoe Beach, near Dover, at 8am yesterday.

 

Andrew contacted GB Deaf Swimming Club earlier this year, asking if he could help to raise money for the club by being sponsored to swim the event, and the monies raised are to go towards providing financial support for the team that will be selected to swim for Great Britain next July in Turkey.

 

Deaf athletes receive little or no financial support from central Government or sporting bodies, and they have to raise the costs of competing for their country as well as training to be in peak condition for their events. For swimmers, this means that they will usually train, in the pool and the gym, for an average of 20 hours per week, with only a few days off for Christmas and Easter, and a short summer break, as well as completing school and university assignments and trying to raise funds in order to get to events. As an example, the cost of the last 3 major competitions (2015 World Deaf Swimming Championships in San Antonio, Texas, 2014 European Deaf Swimming Championships in Saransk, Russia, and 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria) has been over £6000 for each swimmer, before the cost of training at their local club, competition swimwear and associated costs are taken into account. Andrew’s sponsorship money will reduce the burden on them for the next games, and the club is indebted to him and to our previous epic endurance swimmers, the 5 Deaf Otters, a team of ladies who raised money for the club by swimming 5 ½ miles across Coniston Water in September 2015.

GB Deaf Swimming’s Chair, Brian Baxter, said this morning: “I would like to congratulate Andrew on the fantastic achievement of completing the Channel Swim solo, the first British Deaf swimmer to do so. This is a monumental coup, both on a personal level and especially for Deaf and hard of hearing swimmers. We are very grateful that he nominated GB Deaf Swimming Club as the chosen organisation for fund-raising purposes. The money he has raised will help our Deaflympic swimmers immensely, and his swim will also serve as an inspiration to them all.”

 

 

Other relevant links:

Andrew’s Channel Swim 2016 Facebook Page

Just Giving page

 

Enquiries:

Margaret Baxter

Secretary, GB Deaf Swimming Club

www.gbdeafswimming.org

Tel: 07713 739893, 01372 464761