USADSF Spotlight with Noah - US Deaflympian Heather Withrow Interview

Noah: Hello, welcome to USADSF Spotlight with Noah, I am Noah Valencia. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day which is a special holiday that recognizes many mothers who are very supportive of their children while raising them. Today, we will interview a mother who is also an athlete. She participated in three different Deaflympics and she, herself, held a World Record (now broken) for hammer throw. Her name is Heather Lightfoot Withrow and we will interview her today!

IMAGE: Heather Lightfoot Withrow poses after breaking her own World Record in the Deaf Women’s Hammer Throw with a 6th and final throw of 45.43 meters at the 2001 Rome Deaf World Games.

ID: An extremely happy woman with brown hair pulled back in a bun has her right arm posed like the ASL sign “strong”. She is standing next to an adjustable display sign that has her competitor bib number “401” in black, and below in red is “4543", which indicates 45.43 meters. The background is completely filled in with green netting which safely encloses the hammer circle (not visible).

Noah: I am curious, what was your experience of bringing your kid to Deaflympics, what was it like?

Heather: During 2005, where I played hammer throw and discus, what was it like to bring him? Definitely a different experience than being just an athlete in the first two Deaflympics where I got to interact with everyone, a totally different experience. Now, during this third Deaflympics, I was a mother. It was such a different experience with different priorities. My opportunities to go out and do some sightseeing was reduced, obviously, because my priorities were focusing on my kid and my competitions that I had to be ready for my competitions. I placed my kid in the Baby Bjorn baby carriers where I kept him while walking around. We bought a stroller there at the Deaflympics training location.

Noah: 2005 was in Australia, right?

Heather: Yes, 2005 was in Australia. The USA team trained at University of Ballarat.

Noah: Yes.

IMAGE: Thomas, Heather and Skyler pose with a small, free-roaming kangaroo at the Ballarat Wildlife Park during an USA Team training camp excursion.

ID: A man and a woman are wearing white caps in a shaded area on a sunny day. The woman is carrying a baby in a front carrier covered by a light blue blanket, only the top of the baby’s head and nose are visible. The adults are smiling and squatting as they touch a small brown kangaroo between them.

Heather: While training there, I realized that I needed a stroller really bad as the baby carrier was too much. So we bought a stroller there and used it often, alternating with the baby carrier in Melbourne. During the opening ceremony, I actually went with my baby in my baby carrier and walked around the ceremony. My son was 2 and half months old at that time!

IMAGE: Heather Withrow (née Lightfoot) and her son, Skyler (3 months old), pose with USA Team Director Michele Berke and her son, Troy (5 months old), at the Melbourne 2005 closing ceremony.

ID: The setting is a grassy infield. From left to right is a smiling woman wearing a Taipei 2009 cap and USA polo shirt, she is crouching next to her son, a bald-headed baby boy who is sitting in an umbrella stroller. Holding onto a stroller leg on the other side is another smiling woman with an USA hat on top of her curly hair. She is sitting on a camping stool and her infant son, wearing a red beanie, is carried on her chest in a front-pouch carrier.

Noah: During your pregnancy, you had to continue to train for the Deaflympics. How did you manage to take care of your pregnancy while in training?

Heather: Okay, yes. During the first two Deaflympics, I wasn't a mother yet, but on my third one in 2005, during my pregnancy, I went through with my training procedure. During my first trimester, I was not bothered by my pregnancy, it was not in the way. Yes, I did have morning sickness etc. but I did not care because I love sports too! I trained with discus and hammers, I competed in the open meets in an area in Virginia. Open meets means anyone is welcome, it is not limited to Gallaudet University students and open to any ages. I have seen open meets where 12 year old boys participate. So open meets means anyone can join, there is no age minimum, nor affiliation. Anyway, I stopped training at about four months. I had to be careful even though I had the temptation to train. I would still do the hammer circle throws really lightly and people would tell me, “you shouldn’t do that”. I was really impatient and wanted to train but I waited until Skylar was born. I underwent a C- section. That was really difficult because that really cut through my muscles and opened it up. I was forced to rest for 6 weeks, I couldn’t do anything for 6 weeks, if I remember correctly, it was over 15 years ago! After resting for 6 weeks, I started to train lightly and get back in training mode.

Noah: Wow, that is tough! Must be real tough! You won a medal in 2005 right? Bronze?

Heather: Yes. Bronze for the Hammer throw.

Noah: Wow, that’s a big honor! To have a baby and To medal!

IMAGE: Heather Withrow and Skyler pose with two Japanese athletes during the closing ceremony of Melbourne 2005 Deaflympics.

ID: Four people are in the foreground, left to right is a white-appearing woman who is smiling, wearing a cap and navy blue USA polo shirt. She is holding her bald-headed baby boy wearing a onesie that has many tiny USA flags on it. Two Asian-appearing women are wearing colorful kimonos and are smiling toward the camera, one is holding the baby’s pinkie finger and the other is holding up a backwards “ILY” handshape. The background has multiple people closely interacting with one other.

Noah: With your experience as a mother and an athlete, do you have any advice for mothers who are currently athletes as well?

Heather: You know... you’re not the only one. There are other mothers who do this too. In 2005 when I had a 12 weeks old son, I knew there were many other Deaflympian athletes who were already mothers. It was just that each mother differed with age, and experience. I had an unique experience where I brought my son with me. Some mothers had older children and were able to leave their child at home with other family members and did not bring them. What else could I say.. You are not alone and you are a model for your own children, your families, other mothers to stay with it. Just because you became a mother, it does not mean you stop with your athletics. You can continue. Of course everyone has their priorities on why they decide to continue with athletics or shift their focus to do other things. Yes I did stop throwing the hammer but there still is a little voice in the back of my head, to give it another try with just one more time! Honestly, I feel like I could do one more time right now. I have the hammer in my garage!

Noah: Laughs. Go ahead, let’s go ahead, one more time! Go and get it and throw it!

Heather: Haha! I better go ahead, and stretch first. I’m older now.

Noah: Thank you Heather. Her words surely will inspire mothers all over the USA who want to maintain as an athlete as well. Until then!

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