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December 28, 2002

Soundless snowboarding

From: Summit Daily News, CO - 28 Dec 2002

Jason Starr

FRISCO - Snowboard competitors often wear headphones to drown out the incessant commentary of the announcer at an event.

Sheila De La O doesn't have to worry about that. She's deaf. What's often thought of as a disability can be an advantage at contests for this local halfpipe, slalom and giant slalom rider.

But while she can focus on her run perhaps better than those who must deal with auditory distractions, being deaf will present challenges as she goes ahead with plans to compete in local competitions this season.

"I would have to get an interpreter to keep me updated on what is going on around the competition or I would just be clueless," De La O said in a written interview. "Or I would have to be aggressive and use gestures to communicate with the hearing folks."

Fortunately for the Hotel Frisco employee, hearing-impaired athletes have an opportunity to train with and compete against others like themselves through the USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF).

De La O is a member of the Federation's U.S. Deaf Snowboard Team, which will compete in the 2003 winter Deaflympics in Sundsvall, Sweden, in February. The Deaflympics happen every four years.

"I'm pretty excited about Sweden," she said. "Having never been to Europe, I am looking forward to the experience it will bring and the promise it holds to be recognized."

De La O made the U.S. Deaf Team in 2000 at a tryout in Breckenridge. One year later, she placed first in the slalom and second in the halfpipe at the Deaflympic trials at Heavenly Resort in California to ensure her spot for Sweden.

The team will train in Lake Placid, N.Y. and Vermont for several weeks leading up to its departure for Sweden. Before that, De La O hopes to compete against hearing riders on local circuits like the Copper Snowboard Series and the Snowboard Outreach Society Series.

"It will give me more experience with competitions, and I would be able to get ready for Sweden," De La O said. "I am determined to bring home medals, and I am willing to do whatever it takes."

De La O's brother, Derrick, is one of the top deaf halfpipe riders in the world and is also on the team. In fact, most of the De La O family is deaf.

Derrick taught Sheila how to snowboard when she was 16. She broke her wrist her first day on a board but wasn't discouraged.

The Huntington Beach, Calif., native has been riding in Colorado since 1999. When not training with the team, she rides locally with her hearing friends, some of whom can interpret with sign language.

De La O needs sponsors for expenses related to training with the U.S. Deaf Team and the trip to Sweden for the Deaflympics. She must raise $4,000. Donations can be sent to Lisa Jacobs at 14314 Gate Dancer Lane, Boyds, MD, 20841. Make checks payable to USADSF with Sheila De La O in the memo line. De La O can be contacted at the Hotel Frisco at (970) 668-5009.

Copyright Summit Daily News.