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The start of something extraordinary

Santana Chapman Excels at Deaflympics

A lot of people have probably never heard of the Deaflympics before, but it began 89 years ago in Paris where nine countries sent 148 deaf athletes to compete.

Today it is an International Olympic Committee sanctioned event at which deaf athletes compete in athletics, cycling, diving, swimming, shooting, table tennis, taekwondo, wrestling, judo, badminton, karate, orienteering, basketball, beach volleyball, and volleyball. To qualify for the games athletes must have a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels.

Santana Chapman from Tawa Swim Club was the only Kiwi swimmer to compete at the recent Deaflympics held in Sofia, Bulgaria from July 26 to August 4. The athletic fifteen year old from Waikanae is profoundly deaf, using an implant that allows her to hear, but she must remove it when she gets in the pool to compete. 

Santana qualified for the Deaflympics despite having only swum competitively for 18 months. She began her swimming journey with coach Jon Winter at the Raumati Swimming Club, but moved to train with coach Jason McPhee at Tawa after establishing a strong connection through sign language and visual learning.

Swimming races at the Deaflympics were started by a beam of light that signalled the start of the race. Sign language was used to communicate with administrators, and all officials had to communicate via sign language.

Chapman excelled in her first international swimming competition. She finished 23rd in the 50m freestyle, 22nd in the 100m freestyle (improving her International Deaf Swimming ranking by four places), 21st in the 200m freestyle, 22nd in the 50m breaststroke, and 29th in the 50m butterfly.

At just fifteen years of age this young woman from Kapiti College has a bright swimming future ahead of her.