Deaf Sports Events14th March 2015

Deaf Swimmers Light Up Loughborough

One of the most important events in the British Sports Diary, deaf swimmers compete for national honours at an elite venue

by Sarah Lawrence

Taking place at the wonderful Loughborough University on Saturday 14th March, the National Deaf Swimming Championships are one of the most important dates in the Deaf Sports diary. Attracting youngsters from across the UK, this is an opportunity for swimmers and their parents to enjoy the sporting excellence of the venue and the occasion. Held under one of the most strictly managed regimes in respect of qualifying deafness, the nationals are used extensively to track swimmer progress and assess potential for future honours.

A few of the top swimmers were unable to compete due to illness or injury, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm or the competitor excitement, with old friends warmly greeting each other as they gathered in readiness for the warm up. Supported brilliantly for the second year by Advanced Bionics, the holding of the National Championships are an important platform for these deaf swimmers to compete with other swimmers on an equal footing.

Talking to the charming Daniel Battelle from Advanced Bionics about their sponsorship of the event, I asked him why supporting these championships were important. "At Advanced Bionics we believe that these youngsters deserve our support. We are constantly developing equipment that allow deaf youngsters to wear their cochlear implants in the water whilst training, in some cases this being the only way they can access the same technical coaching that other swimmers enjoy. We have an ambition to ensure deaf youngsters can take part fully in a hearing world, so being here is important to us."

Achievable through a, 'we all muck in to help' approach, many of the deaf competitors stopped to have a quick 'hand wag' to tell me how much they were looking forward to the competition, before the warm up began.

Commenting on the importance of the National Deaf Swimming Championships, World Record Holder Danielle Joyce said, "The Deaf Championships is a fantastic weekend. It's a chance to meet up with all the club and also important for the young swimmers and stars of the future to see the senior members of the team compete."

Standing at one end and looking across at the 50 metre expanse of water between me and the far end of the pool, I looked at some of the younger competitors easily making their way back and fore with complete wonderment at the ease with which they were completing something that would have had me gasping for air, just swimming one length. It would be too crude to say these yougsters were inspirational, they were just doing what they love, but I did feel inspired. I also wondered how many swimming coaches across the UK even knew that the Deaf Championships existed and how many swimming clubs were coaching deaf youngsters towards achieving this level.

Under the watchful eye of Championship Referee Ron Brewin and his team of officials, the starting procedure was shown to all racers before we were able to get underway. A little disappointed to see the starting system having to be placed on a step ladder for swimmers to see the flashing light on the top, I hope that a more permanent solution can be found for future events. With a relatively low number of swimmers taking part compared to mainstream galas and the British Championships, these swimmers showed their fitness, having little time to rest in between their races.

Despite the gruelling regime for some of the competitors, eighteen age group records were broken by eight different swimmers. Three swimmers, Evie Gallen, Emily Noden and Jack McCormish also swam superbly, breaking seven of their own national records.

Age Group Records:

Libby Gotta (11 & Under) 100 Free/50 Fly
Evie Gallen (11 & Under) 100 Breast/100 Fly/ 200 IM
Jessica Oaten (12) 50 Free/50 Fly
Kieron Harris (12) 50 Free/50 Back/100 Back/50 Fly
Jake Bayley (12) 100 Free
Zack Merritt (12) 200 IM
Ciara Tappenden (13) 50 Breast/100 Breast/200 IM
Nathan Young (15) 50 Free/50 Fly

Results of the Championship Events:

100 Free Ladies: 1st Emily Noden  2nd Jasmine Seamarks  3rd Ciara Tappenden
100 Free Men: 1st Jack McCormish  2nd Nathan Young  3rd Kieran Holdbrook
100 Back Ladies: 1st Emily Noden  2nd Jasmine Seamarks  3rd Libby Gotta
100 Back Men: 1st Jack McCormish  2nd Oliver Kenny  3rd Nathan Young
100 Breast Ladies: 1st Lucy Walkup  2nd Ciara Tappenden  3rd Evie Gallen
100 Breast Men: 1st Jack McCormish  2nd Oliver Kenny  3rd Matthew Oaten
100 Fly Ladies: 1st Emily Noden  2nd Jasmine Seamarks  3rd Evie Gallen
100 Fly Men: 1st Jack McCormish  2nd Oliver Kenny  3rd Fraser McCulloch
200 I.M. Ladies: 1st Emily Noden  2nd Ciara Tappenden  3rd Evie Gallen
200 I.M. Men: 1st Oliver Kenny  2nd Nathan Young  3rd Kieran Holdbrook

Sadly, unable to take her place on the starting blocks this year, Danielle commented, "I was very disappointed not to have made it this year. Congratulations to all the swimmers especially the younger ones for setting so many new age group records and hopefully one day they will follow me into the World record books. I am back into full training now following a slight injury and really concentrating on being ready for the World Championships in Texas later this year."

Looking forward to the World Deaf Swimming Championships in Texas later this year and chatting to Emily Noden and Jack McCormish after the competition, I asked them about the upcoming World Championships. They were both delighted to be on the team and were both looking forward to travelling to Texas to represent their country. Like many elite deaf sports stars, they are disappointed that deaf sport attracts a tiny percentage of the money invested in Paralmpic and Olympic athletes, despite the long and proud history of the UK's involvement in the Deaflympics and other major world championships.

In countries like Russia, the deaf swimmers are treated on a par with their Olympic and Paralympic team mates, meaning that Jack, Emily and the other team members will be taking to the blocks and racing against deaf swimmers from around the world who are professional athletes, enjoying the training time, facilities and team support functions that underpin elite performance. It is disappointing that the deaf youngsters at these national championships do not get the support that other elite athletes enjoy in the UK. Regardless of the decisions of the past and the P/politics involved, it must be tough to be 15, standing on those blocks, and wondering what has gone wrong for you to be treated with such disdain, compared to their Olympic and Paralympic team mates.

Despite the lack of investment in Deaf sport, and Deaf swimming in particular, we have enjoyed success in the past and hopes are high for the upcoming championships. Underpinned by tremendous dedication, Danielle is at the forefront of our challenge, but nothing is a given. "Just because I have many world records does not mean I will be guaranteed any medals," Danielle explained. "It is going to take a lot of hard work to hopefully bring some medals home for Team GB. Texas will be very hot and humid as well as being an outdoor pool so it will be very difficult for the British team to cope with."

The GB Team selected for the World Championships

Ladies: Danielle Joyce (18) Emily Noden (18) Lucy Walkup (18) Emma Lees (16) Polly Saines (16) Jasmine Seamarks (15) Ciara Tappenden (13)

Mens: James Webster(22) Tom Baxter (21) Jack McComish (19) Luke Nisted (18) Oliver Kenny (17) Nathan Young (15) Matthew Oaten (15) Kieron Holdbrook (15)


At SLFirst we would like to wish all the Deaf GB Swimming Team, the best of luck. We would also like to recognise these Swimming Clubs for their efforts in working with the Deaf swimmers to get them to the nationals:

Basildon and Phoenix
Borough of Harrow
Bottisham & City of Cambridge
Calne Alpha Four
City of Coventry
City of Chester
City of Glasgow
City of Oxford
Didcot & Barramundi
Don valley Dolphins
Gateshead & Wickham
London Borough of Redbridge
Loughborough Town
Petts Wood
Stafford Apex
UEA City of Norwich
University of Stirling
West Wight
Woodside & Thornton Heath


Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

14th March 2015