The 5th World Deaf Swimming Championships ended last week on August 31st with a number of broken Deaf Championship Records by participants from various nations. The 2019 Championships were located at São Paulo, Brazil from August 25th-31st. Through the partnership of Brazil’s Comitê Paralímpico: Brasileiro, the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) hosted 30 nations for the competition since its 4th in 2015 in Texas, America. This contest occurs every four years in preparation for the subsequent Olympic-level Deaflympics; the next one being in Valtellina- Valchiavenna, Italy, from 12th-21st December, 2019.
Schedule and Program
were scheduled to arrive between the 22nd and 24th with
training occurring from the 22nd to the 25th in the 25m
and 50m pool. The Opening Ceremony and Technical Meeting occurred on the 25th
and the competition started from the 26th and closed on the 31st.
Participants thus departed for the airport yesterday on September 1st.
The six days of the competition had 45 minutes of warm-up for participants
before the following 2.5 hours passed with competition between various nation
representatives, of both sexes, from the deaf and hard
of hearing community.
Eligibility Requirements for Participants and Teams
No hearing aids or implants are to be used during the competition and to be eligible for the World Deaf Swimming Championships, participants:
- have to be members of a national member of the ICSD
- deaf or with hearing loss of at least 55dB in the (better) ear (3 tone frequency average of 500, 1,000 and 2,000 Hertz, ANSI 1969 standard).
National members of the ICSD include Kenya and our National Deaf Swim Team did receive an invitation to the Deaf Championships. However, they encountered financial challenges and up till the few days prior to the initiation of said competition, were uncertain of their attendance. Fortunately, Kenya was able to participate with 2 representatives, and though no medals were brought home, it was no doubt an irreplaceable experience for the pair and their 3 officials.
By the 30th of August, as the Championships came to a close, the accolades raised a number of nations above the rest. These nations were the Russian Federation, Japan, Ukraine, USA, Poland, and Belarus.
Many people had followed Charity Muruga and her team as they practiced for the World Deaf Swimming Championships in early August in Kasarani Aquatic Stadium. According to aired news on Citizen, the team had been practicing for as long as 3 months prior and there was clear excitement and passion to prepare for the international experience and contest. However, monetary hindrances appeared and risked great losses to the swimmers who invested effort to compete at Brazil. Thankfully, the hard of hearing and deaf community of Kenya were represented in the Swimming Championships, but the question of whether the leaders – and the people- are supportive enough to Persons with Disability drawn to sports remains.
In mid-August, the coach for Kenya’s National Deaf Swim Team appealed to the general public and well-wishers to help fundraise for the team who were scheduled to go to Brazil two weeks later on the 22nd of August. Some place most of the blame on Kenya’s Sports Ministry for undervaluing the swimming sports arena; subsequently not planning for Brazil, or the money that would be needed to sustain the venture, though details of the competition had been ready for months. For nation known for its athletes, why is there recurring embarrassment of players facing poor management, lacking accommodation, fare, stipend, or attendance certainty happening?
Some replies include sub-par planning, low value placed on certain sports (like swimming in this case), and prioritization on fame and success over training the various skills present in Kenya in the name of sports and cultural diversification and appreciation. Likewise, there is this angle: restraints. Kenya is not among the top nations in terms of wealth. It is not possible for the country to participate in every single international competition- even regional. They have to prioritize which competition will temper local athletes the most whilst gathering maximized global exposure of the nation to the rest of the world, at the lowest cost possible. So, leaders would start by filtering the said sports and activities to promote, support, and invest in. The popular sports with majority involvement would therefore appear in the subsequent listing. Running is one of them.
Haven’t seen much of it. Not to say it isn’t present; it simply isn’t as acclaimed.
For instance, Kenya Swimming Federation’s National Trials at Kasarani Stadium in April to select swimmers for various, international, summer games in 2020, shows that swimming has its supportive niche. And there’s Kenya’s first-time participation in the World Deaf Tennis Championships this October in Turkey- with strong support from the Chairman of the National Council for Persons with Disability- and the first-ever Africa Deaf Athletics this month with Kenya as host. To note, Kenya was given the honor to host this historical event because of the participants dominating the World Deaf Championships so it isn’t that the deaf and hard of hearing community is being slighted or overlooked.
However, the community is not only a minority group in Kenya, but swimming is one of the unpopular sports as well. Factor in the environmental climate and level of academic and extra-curricular exposure to the youth, the pool of remaining “good” sports are…very few.
At least here, it can be agreed that the country may be stingy to take a leap and grow the sports niche of Kenya’s talents. It is a resource pit when done poorly and profits don’t show immediately. Though undesirable, it is understandable why the government, and other private organizations, do not invest widely in sports in Kenya and plan for the selected few events per sport category. Nonetheless, persons with disabilities should be consciously considered when sports are being filtered during investment planning since they are just as talented, and passionate, as the non-disabled.
And just as Kenyan.
To the teams, if they aspire to compete they need to start fundraising as soon as they have decided to partake. This proactivity will show commitment and could aid in drawing in sponsors- even governmental aid.
Coming up: 19th Winter Deaflympics!
Though the Kenyan government is not budgeting for the Deaflympics, as seen with the upcoming Winter version in December, teams can still fundraise for themselves and register to the according sport they practice.
The Winter Deaflympics will be occurring at three different places over the dates of 11th-20th December. At Santa Caterina di Valfurva, there will be Alpine skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. Ice hockey and chess will both be held at Chiavenna with curling (similar to bowling) located at Madesmo. The following Deaflympics will be in 2021, January, as the Summer version with a wider range of competitions from Taekwondo, Tennis, Volleyball, Swimming, and Basketball (as inferred from the 2017 list of Games).
Any team or person with questions pertaining to the Deaflympics or smaller, numerous, World Deaf Championships may contact the ICSD Secretariat at email@example.com.
May we all encourage our upcoming talented youth, disabled or not, and see sports and the arts as an avenue of empowerment, social skill development, and financial entrepreneurship. These talents of Kenya should never be taken for granted ‘lest they leave to support another national banner.
By: Ann Yebei