By Chanel Gleicher
The cancellation of 17th Winter Deaflympics in Vysoke Tatry, Slovakia, brought unexpected news to the United States team. The United States athletes were shocked when they first received confirmation from the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.
Jeff Pollock, a three-time Deaflympian, first received the news when he was training at Snowbasin Resort, Utah. “My first reaction was that this was a joke, Rachel [Benedict] was just playing a personal prank on us,” Pollock said, “I was in disbelief. I couldn’t focus on training & spent the next several hours just snowboarding, without any focus.”
The disappointment became a mutual feeling for Deaflympians across America.
Elizabeth Matthew, a member of the women’s curling team, was shocked when she discovered the news. “There’s no word I could describe it bit. It’s totally heartbroken,” Matthews said.
“I could not believe it at first. How could an event of this magnitude and world level get cancelled at the last minute? The cancellation announcement hurt and my first thoughts were of the team and how they must feel,” said Jeff Bata, U.S. men’s curling head coach.
“The Deaflympics is a tremendous event for everyone and where athletes from all over the world can get together to compete and build friendships,” he added.
With no financial support from the United States Olympic Committee, athletes had spent tremendous time fitting training in with their daily lifestyle. The pressure of winning medals for the U.S. instantly went out of the picture when they first heard the news, but their time, money, and training wasn’t.
“I lost money, yes, but not training time. I compete locally & enjoy it. My focus during local competitions is training-oriented & helps me prepare physically & mentally for the Deaflympics, so I wouldn’t say it was wasted time. In my shape, I believe I can continue training & compete again in 2015,” Pollock said.
Athletes had given up a lot of time to show their skills to other countries what they are capable of. Despite the cancellation of the Deaflympics, the athletes are already preparing for the next Winter Deaflympics in 2015.
Snowboarder Nixo Lanning of Santa Fe, N.M., said she plans to “keep on racing and riding hard to increase my power and speed, and continue to love to ride.”
“All skill sets will have to be improved before the next Winter Deaflympics as every country will now have four more years to improve their skills and we have to work that much harder to be the best,” Coach Bata settled.
“I’d never feel waste time because training is always important to me to be a better player for the Deaflympics,” Matthews stated.
The debacle of the 17th Winter Deaflympics has not only caused devastation, but also determination for the athletes to train harder for the next Deaflympics.
“I will always improve my skill in curling; delivery and strategy,” Matthews added, “I have confident in ICSD that they will not allow it to happen again. I am sure they are going to figure how to prevent it from happening again.”
“I can’t imagine this would happen again. I believe ICSD will establish procedures to ensure the Deaflympics are structurally and financially sound with organizing committee leaders that can be trusted,” Pollock commented.
“I look forward to my first Deaflympics Games as a coach and will work hard with the athletes to earn a spot on the next U.S. Deaflympics team,” Bata concluded.