Summer Deaflympics 2017 held in Turkey

Sunday, August 13, 2017, 16:00

‘Our voice is Sport’ was the theme chosen for this year’s 23rd Deaflympics held in Samsun, Turkey. This event has established itself well in the calendar of Deaf people who excel in sport. Deaflympics occur every four years and are considered the longest running multi-sport event following the world Olympics. The first games were held in Paris in 1924 and were the first ever international sporting event for athletes specifically for the Deaf. Deaflympics shows that sport has no limits and brings Deaf people together. The event saw at least 3,000 participants from 97 countries, from the five continents achieving over 80 world records.

Deaflympians are guided differently to hearing people as they are not able to hear sounds. Certain sports therefore use alternative methods of commencing the game. For football, referees wave a flag instead of blowing a whistle; on the track, races are started by using a light, instead of a starter pistol. Spectators do not cheer or clap, but rather wave with both hands for appreciation. This is a manifestation of the Deaf Culture.

Malta was represented by an only courageous; athlete George Vella who participated in the full Marathon on the 29th July. George Vella holds a 2nd place in the European Deaf Marathon Championships in 2015 and a 7th place in the World Deaf Athletics Championships in 2016.

In a scorching sun, he successfully completed the Marathon winning the 13th place from 28 participants. The route was mainly flat however the dry, hot temperatures made the mission rather arduous for the brave athlete, who participated in the Deaflympics for the fourth time. He had to measure himself with athletes who traditionally are considered as the most successful; Kenyans, Italian, Turkish, Japanese and Spanish.

George Vella explains that he was well trained for this special event and that there were many logistical things to consider together with his official. Nonetheless, some mishaps still occurred including a blow on the left knee two days before the Marathon. “I was determined enough to approach the race positively with my usual sheer ambition” says George very enthusiastically.

The start of the race day was rather cool with 25 degrees which started off in the athletics stadium.

“I started cautiously, checking my heart rate repeatedly and controlled my pace till the half marathon, running through Samsun long flat roads. My position was still 20th from 28 athletes in midway”.

George reckons, “During the second half, I started pressing swiftly while noticing some fast athletes were slowing down and were approaching ahead. I reached them one by one while checking my pace and heart rate carefully not to exceed my limits. There my race started and I tried fighting my position as much as I could”. The 30th km was a critical point of the marathon as I was still energetic until the 36th km when my legs started feeling heavy and my pace started to slow due the excessive heat.

George remembers seeing a pole on the way marking 36deg., and by then he decided to keep calm, focusing to keep progressing strategically, fighting to finish the Marathon for a good time and finishing the Marathon healthy.

He described the last part as “emotional and one to remember “. As he approached the stadium and his legs felt heavy and also experienced cramps, he recounts how Running on tracks towards the finish was memorable, cheered by supporters waving Deaflympians as always. George Vella finished the race in 3h 05m 13s and ranking in strong 13th place with made honour to the country of Malta competing in such an elite standard. As expected the first three were Deaf Kenyans athletes whose times were Olympic standards, followed by Spanish, Italian, Turkish and Japanese athletes.

George Vella has showed great courage, motivation and professionality in this gruelling adventure. Whilst appreciating the kind support given by Sports Malta, it would be much appreciated if further appreciation is given to international events like this by the local entities.

 





Leave a comment