A deaf East London champion swimmer, who has also lost the sight in one eye, has been selected to represent South Africa at the Deaflympics in Turkey in two weeks’ time, and will soon be jetting off to make his swimming dream come true.
Mark Roach, 20, now a second-year animation student in Cape Town, said he had been training up to four hours a day in the hopes of qualifying for his second Deaflympic Games and that being accepted was “a massive honour”.
“After qualifying at trials I was selected to represent my country in Turkey for the 23rd Summer Deaflympic Games and I am so thankful to have been selected for this prestigious event. Sadly, due to a lack of funding we will not be supported and are required to pay for ourselves. Every donation will be greatly appreciated,” he said.
He has participated in the Deaflympics before, when he was selected as part of the South African team as a 16-year-old schoolboy in Bulgaria in 2013.
“He did very well even though he was just a teenager,” said East London coach Vionne Skinner who will be accompanying the South African team to the Deaflympics as coach and manager. She said Roach had also performed well in the Deaf World Championships in Portugal eight years ago.
His mother, Joy Roach, said her son had been profoundly [more than 90%] deaf since birth.
“He hears absolutely nothing without his cochlear device. While swimming, he is without his device and can’t hear at all.”
Roach said her son had adjusted well to his deafness and that most people were unaware he could not hear them, thanks to the cochlear implant and his lip-reading prowess.
The tall young swimmer who is described as “strong and disciplined” by Skinner, lost the sight in one eye while in high school.
“He suffered a giant retinal tear while diving into our pool,” said his mother. “Poor balance associated with his deafness means he used his eyes to keep level and upright and the lack of stereoscopic vision makes it difficult which is not easy for a 6’4 [1.93-metre] young man, but he is like a fish in water.”
Skinner, who started coaching Roach when he was four years old, said despite this setback, the swimmer reached the finals at the Deaf World Championships in Texas in 2013. — firstname.lastname@example.org