Deaf Sports Stars23rd June 2015
Sponsors Help Deaf Racer Caleb McDuff Pursue His Dreams
Taking place in the third round of the MSA Bambino Championship, Caleb's progress continues apace
Making my way to Shenington Kart track in North Oxfordshire on Sunday, I found myself thinking about SLFirst’s 7-year old sporting ambassador, Caleb McDuff, the wonderful support he gets from his family, and the way he has thrown himself energetically and purposefully into his sport. Having made the same two and half hour journey that I was making on Friday evening, the family commitment to give Caleb this opportunity is lovely to see, but seeing him so alive behind the wheel of his kart when on the track, pays back that time and effort in spades. It is a pleasure to watch and to play our part in supporting him.
Of course, we are not alone, with Caleb this year securing support from a range of sponsors, all of whom deserve a pat on the back for helping this youngster pursue his dream. He might only be seven, but there can be no doubt that his attitude to his deafness and his pursuit of something special, mark this youngster out as a role model for other Deaf children. Catching up with Caleb early on Sunday morning, I could not help but be impressed by the sight of the logos from all the sponsors adorned on a canvas in their pop-up garage. Wix Racing, Millers Oils, Taylor Wimpey, GoCompare, Fat Jester Graphics, Trusted Car Parts, Motorcare and FAS Remap are all playing their part in helping Caleb show that Deaf can achieve, even when competing in the mainstream.
In deep conversation with his mum, Caleb is a constant wind-up merchant and pretends that he has not seen us. Maintaining a serious face for what seemed like minutes, he could not hold his excitement any longer, as he bursts into a warm and welcoming smile, pleased to see us there. Having cochlear implants fitted a few years ago, Caleb is taught orally in school but also some SSE. When the family found out he was deaf when he was two, they immediately learned some British Sign Language to ensure they can communicate with him at all times, and that helps a lot on race days.
His mum, Lianne, had learned BSL with her job a few years before Caleb was born, and uses sign extensively during a race weekend when Caleb takes off his CI transponders and has what he calls Deaf days. Signing more easily with me and my colleagues every time I go to a race weekend, Caleb and I have a few battles over some of the politically correct signs he is being taught in school, like the sign for 2, but generally, we understand each other just great, and he is perfectly at home when having a ‘Deaf day’.
Having been at the track all day Saturday to practice, I asked dad Ian how things had gone. “Yesterday was a good day,” he told me. “Caleb was much quicker here than he was last year, and then throughout the day he managed to take a further 7 seconds off his time in quite damp conditions, so he is in Group A for the official time trials today.”
Called to the dummy grid in preparation for his first race of the day, Caleb is having one of those boyish moments when compliance seems to be the furthest thing from his mind. Having fun, he really enjoys being impish until he puts that helmet on. At that point his demeanour changes completely, and a racing driver stands before you.
On track throughout the day, Caleb was clearly having more fun than I have seen in all of his previous races. Whilst the race is all-out time-trialling, Caleb manages to catch the kart in front and enjoys lap after lap of duelling for position. At just 7 it is amazing to see these children driving around the track in such close proximity to each other, but without a flicker of concern about one driver forcing the other off the track, despite their very clear intention of finishing as the kart in-front.
After one of the races during which Caleb passed two karts on track and found himself in a four kart fight for track position, he came off the track buzzing with excitement and desperate to tell everyone about it. The weekend is hard work for children this young, as well as the parents and supporters, but his level of enjoyment must make it all worthwhile.
With Caleb signing more and more fluently throughout the day, my highlight of the day came when my colleague was video recording a brief signed conversation I had with mum Lianne. Caleb stood quietly by my colleague watching our images and the interview on screen, following our conversation. When it ended, he just looked at me and smiled, and then came to us both quickly to give us high fives as a sign of his approval. In fact, he enjoyed it so much we did it all over again with Caleb as the cameraman, and what a grand job he did of that too, as you can see below.
Talking to my colleague, Ian described the appreciation that he and Caleb have for everyone who is supporting his pursuit of this dream. When he learned that Caleb was Deaf, he feared for the opportunities Caleb might have in life, but positivity quickly followed, and as a family they are adamant that Caleb will be given every chance to succeed. Quite rightly, they do not accept that deafness, a barrier to communication, should hold Caleb back, and their aspiration now, is back to where it was before he became deaf.
Caleb did a great job in the grand final, moving up one place and finishing just over 2 seconds behind the quickest racer in that class, a huge improvement on the 12 to 15 second gap he had last year. Finishing the day in good spirits, he just had the drive home to look forward too - and the next race of course. Seeing such an accomplished performer on the track, it is sometimes easy to forget that Caleb is Deaf, and that his driving of the kart is a wholly different experience to other children on the grid. I look forward to watching his progress throughout the season and at some point I’m hoping for a quick interview, so that I can get him ready for the big time!!
Article by SLFirst Sports Team
posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Stars
23rd June 2015