Deaflympians battle for sport & awareness

Howard Gorrell has competed in 13 of the last 14 Deaflympics since 1969 and was awarded the USADSF Jerald M. Jordan Award in 2004, given to those who demonstrate leadership and continued participation in Deaflympics goals.

As National Disability Awareness Month began on March 1, US athletes who have competed in past Deaflympics have called on the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to address the needs of US Deaflympians over the past few years four decades to be aware.

Under the USOPC Enhanced Operation Gold program, Carli Cronk (pictured) could raise $6,250 for a gold medal (if the Texas University Interscholastic League allowed it). Identical to her US teammate, Matthew Klotz of Cameron Park, CA. who, with 14 pieces of shiny metal (five gold, two silver and seven bronze) set a new Deaflympic record for most medals ever by an athlete in a single Deaflympic game. Whoa! Unfortunately, both swimmers received a zero from the USOPC through their federation, the USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF). Why?

Cronk could lose a gold medal or two if a former Deaflympian and three-times Paralympian named Becca Meyers of Timonium, MD attended the Brazilian Games. Two years ago, Meyers made national headlines by withdrawing from the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics after the USOPC denied her request for placement to bring her personal nursing assistant. Then the two-time winner of ESPY’s Best Female Athlete with a Disability Award decided not to rejoin the 2022 USA Deaf Swimming Team. Why?

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Alongside Rihanna during the Super Bowl halftime show, a deaf young woman named Justina Miles from Philadelphia wooed the stadium audience and TV viewers with her ultra-beautiful performance in American Sign Language, interpreting Rihanna’s vocals. Despite hundreds of thousands of followers following her performances on TikTok and Instagram, Miles was a little disappointed that some media outlets told readers/viewers that she had received a silver medal in the women’s 4×100 relay in her first appearance at the 2022 Deaflympics . Why so few?

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On a cold November day in 1976, a deaf congressman walked across Senate Park to a building next to Union Station and unexpectedly entered the makeshift office of the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports (PCOS). Olympic runner Ken Moore greeted him and asked what the latter wanted. The deaf man told about the World Games for the Deaf (renamed the Deaflympics in 2001). Suddenly, PCOS Executive Director Michael Harrigan called the White House and asked for an extension of the deadline for submitting a final report because Harrigan wanted to include the issue of athletes with disabilities in the PCOS final report. [Note: the term “handicapped” was common at that time, and we are using “disabled” now.] Why did the dove go there?

I am that man. Alongside me, Carli Cronk, Matthew Klotz, Becca Meyers and Justina Miles are proud to be Deaf Olympians. Still, we must work hard with the USOPC to consider adding Deaflympics to their program.

No admission means Cronk and Klotz couldn’t get the prize money from the USOPC; that Meyers could not get free rides to the Deaflympics, although she had free rides to the Paralympics; and that Miles could not get any publicity from the USOPC because the latter still recognized the word Deaflympics, although the National Football League’s press releases contained an imaginative paragraph about it receiving a silver medal.

Last month, the Commission on the State of the US Olympic and Paralympics (CSUSOP), formed by the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, finally got underway after waiting two years to obtain a federal fund .

One area in which the USOPC should prevent future government failures within the US Olympic movement is by giving itself greater legal liability for harmful acts. Federal lawmakers referred to the gymnastics scandal. However, I have pointed out that the USOPC continues to ignore the Deaflympians’ request.

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At the head of the 16-member commission, co-chair Han Xiao, former chair of the USOPC Athletes’ Advisory Council, might come as a surprise after discovering that the Deaflympics is the second-oldest Olympic competition in the world after the Olympics. It was first held in Paris in 1924 as the International Silent Games for the Deaf – just two weeks after the end of the 1924 Summer Olympics, also in Paris.

Co-Chair Dionne Koller, a law professor at the University of Baltimore who authored “A Twenty-First-Century Olympic and Amateur Sports Act,” may learn that the $96 million US Olympic and Paralympic Museum doesn’t have an exhibit about the President’s Commission on Olympic Sport. Harrigan exclaimed that “the PCOS and the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 are the most important things that have happened to the US Olympic Committee in its entire history in terms of positive impact on things, and I think the museum should reflect that.” “

Member Mitch Daniels (President, Purdue University) may be interested in reading The World Games for the Deaf and the Paralympic Games. Then he learned that the International Olympic Committee founded the International Committee for Deaf Sports (ICSD) in 1955 (68 years ago!)

Member Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (Athletics) may feel sorry for our forgotten Deaflympians after reading Deaflympian Runner Emily Wilson’s explanation of why deaf representation is so low on the US team.

Member Bill Hybl (USOPC President Emeritus) may feel embarrassed after reading the 2003 House of Representatives hearing document, which states: “Dr. Harvey W. Schiller, former USOC Executive Director: “And my comment was that every single organization of those who represent disability organizations for the deaf, to Special Olympics, to seniors; there are things called transplant games to the gay games to others all requesting funds to support their organizations.”

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Member Nancy Hogshead-Makar (swimming) could applaud Cronk and Klotz for receiving the 2022 Female Athlete of the Year and 2018 Female Athlete of the Year awards respectively from the ICSD.

The other members, John Dane (sailing), Brittney Reese (athletics), Jordyn Wieber (gymnastics), Patty Cisneros Prevo (basketball), Karin Korb (tennis), Melissa Stockwell (triathlon), Robert Cohen (USOPC Foundation Board of Directors) , University of Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens and Joe Schmitz (former US Department of Defense Inspector General) could flip dozens of documents filed by USADSF President Jeffrey Mansfield to see more wrongdoing by the USOPC.

The USOPC website states, “USOPC Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is: Many Faces, One Team, One Mission.” You must forget to add, “Except for Deaf athletes.”

On March 29, 1978, Col. F. Don Miller, then Executive Director of USOC, wrote to the Treasurer of the American Athletic Association of the Deaf (now USADSF): “If the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, p. 2727, is enacted and a coordinated amateur sports program provided for the disabled and coordinated by the USOC, I would be willing to recommend the use of Olympic terminology in connection with your activities.”

That law was enacted 45 years ago, but the current USOPC has still eluded the recommendation of the legendary USOPC figure.

Member Edwin Moses, my friend who graduated from Dayton [OH] Fairview High School with a 300-yard running track, quoted“In the digital world, sport is an opportunity to bring people together.”

My simple reason for going to the PCOS office was to tell them that parity with the USOPC should motivate future athletes who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing. If the USOPC agrees to host the Deaflympic program, it will end my 45-year struggle for parity with the USOPC.

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