Every two years, the best athletes from around the world gather to compete on the global stage during the Summer or Winter Olympics. While many athletes dream of the fame and glory of winning the gold, just making it there is an incredible achievement. This is especially true for the athletes who have overcome personal obstacles to climb to the top of their respective sports. For some, those hardships include hearing loss.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics set to begin in PyeongChang, South Korea, we’re featuring some of the winter game athletes who have hearing loss and achieved Olympic greatness.
Adam Rippon, Figure Skating
Before his successful career as a figure skater, Adam Rippon had to overcome several health issues in his early years. He was born with an eye infection and 80 percent hearing loss, and he also suffered from a severe respiratory condition and burst appendix. Fortunately, surgery was able to restore most of his hearing, and he recovered from the other illnesses. Adam will be in competing in PyeongChang as one of three men on the U.S. figure skating team.
Amy Purdy, Snowboarding
A bout of bacterial meningitis at age 19 resulted in Amy Purdy’s legs being amputated below the knees and the removal of her kidneys and spleen. The disease also led to hearing loss. Despite these challenges, Amy has pursued her passions, including dancing, modeling, and snowboarding, for which she designed her own prosthetic leg. She won a bronze in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, and will be competing once again in the 2018 event.
Elena Yakovishina, Downhill Skiing
Another athlete born with hearing loss, Elena Yakovishina is a downhill skier from Russia who hasn’t let her disability keep her off the slopes. She wears hearing aids while she competes, which she says improve her balance and help her perform better by hearing the wind and the skis. Hearing aids also helped Elena hear the cheers of her home crowd when she competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Honorable mention: Deaflympics Athletes
While the above are some of the more high-profile Olympic athletes with hearing loss, there are many more who give their all. Every four years, athletes with hearing loss gather to compete during the Deaflympics, previously known as the World Games for the Deaf. To qualify, athletes must have hearing loss of at least 55 decibels and compete without the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants to ensure they perform at the same level. Athletes with hearing loss will have the chance to compete at the next Winter Deaflympic Games taking place in 2019.
As each of these Olympic athletes demonstrates, hearing loss doesn’t have to stop anyone from achieving their dreams and performing at the highest level of athletic competition.