Two years ago, in the 22nd Deaflympic Games in Bulgaria, 49 athletes represented Great Britain and brought home five medals. As an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognised event, it is the pinnacle of many deaf athletes’ careers. The Games builds on the rich history of the Deaflympics, which was first established in 1924. It was then known as the ‘Silent Games’- 40 years before the Paralympics movement hosted its first Parallel Games.
British deaf athletes’ success has continued since the last Games. There have been multiple World and European records in swimming as well as European success in futsal, football, golf and athletics- to name a few.
But despite the success since 2013, deaf athletes continue to face major financial barriers in sport. These barriers have caused some of our best athletes to drop out of the sport completely. Bill Baillie, UK Deaf Sport’s National Talent Officer, recalls a conversation he had at the 2013 Games:
“I was with one athlete who won silver at the Games. Despite her great success, she was considering leaving the sport she loves. Her reason behind it was money-based as she felt she couldn’t afford it anymore and as a result did not feel supported or valued as an elite deaf athlete.”
Now two years away from the next Games, UK Deaf Sport is calling for more support for the country’s elite deaf athletes. Despite consultation on UK Sport policy, the team is without funding, including from Government, while £71,247,756 will be invested for Rio Paralympics 2016.
UK Deaf Sport, the recognised strategic lead for deaf sport in the UK, is working hard to attract other World class events in the country. This week, Nottingham hosts the first World Deaf Tennis Championships, in partnership with the Tennis Foundation.
To support UK Deaf Sport’s work, a new Elite Performance Group has been set up, run by expert volunteers. The Group will work to further develop the framework and plans for the 2017 Deaflympics and beyond. Josef Baines, Chair of the Group stated:
“We need to get the right people in place to support the infrastructure. We need to convince possible funders of deaf sport’s value and give them the confidence to continually fund the Deaflympics as well as other performance programmes for the long-term.”
Looking ahead to Turkey in 2017, Britain has medal potential in swimming, athletics, football, judo and cycling. However, to achieve greater performances and athlete commitment, more funding is required to support deaf sport and provide the much needed resources.
Bill Baillie continues:
“We are confident our deaf athletes can be high achievers on the world stage. But it will take more financial support to ensure we can develop brilliant talent from beginners to elite performers.”
For more information on the opportunities available to become involved in and support elite deaf sport, please contact Bill Baillie on 07540546217 or email [email protected]