Deaflympics: costly for competitors

Melanie Saxe

After four years of practice and dedication, student Sheila De La O was unable to participate in the 2007 Winter Deaflympics because she did not have enough time between school and work for fund raising.

De La O has been snowboarding since she was 16. She is currently on the U.S. half pipe snowboard team.

“Athletes who participate in the Deaflympics are required to raise their own funds,” said De La O, a child development major. “The athletes in the Olympics don’t have to do that.”

In 2003, however, she was able to go to the Winter Deaflympics in Sweden because of her own fund-raising efforts.

“I sent out flyers to different companies, friends and family, letting them know my situation, and asked them to help sponsor my trip,” she said.

She raised $3,000 to cover her expenses to Sweden.

At the games, De La O won two medals.

She said she agrees that there were other issues as well, and that she hopes there will be more female athletes willing to compete.

Had there been a group committed to raising funds for the snowboard team, De La O would have jumped at the opportunity to do what she does best: compete. She argued that truly gifted athletes should not have to worry about fund raising and should instead focus their energy on training.

One of De La O’s friends said she does not know of any organization on campus that could help.

“It is unfortunate that Sheila couldn’t go just because of not having enough money,” said Julia Morrow, an interpreter for deaf and hard of hearing students at CSUN.

Morrow volunteered at the 2007 Winter Deaflympics, which was held in Salt Lake City, as a sports massage therapist for the athletes.

Morrow also had to raise her own funds in order to attend the event as a volunteer.

Other massage therapists were unable to volunteer because they couldn’t afford their own costs, she said.

The Deaflympics paid the staff and local interpreters, Morrow said, but the rest of the volunteers were not paid.

According to CSUN Athletics Director Rick Mazzuto, the Athletics Department only deals with the 20 intercollegiate sports that are sponsored by the university. He wrote in an e-mail that funds could not be used for the Deaflympics.

However, Robert Sidansky, administrator of student services at the National Center on Deafness said, “In the past, NCOD and Deaf CSUNians did fund raising to send athletes to important events, such as Deaflympics.”

He said that his organization would be happy to help deaf athletes, like De La O, raise money.

She countered that “hearing athletes” in the Olympics have an easier time raising money. De La O said there is more of a demand by broadcasters and advertisers to work with hearing athletes.

Ultimately, De La O chose to focus on school. In the future, she might again try out for the Deaflympics. But she will have to make sure her job can support her, she said.