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April 17, 2003

Ackerman swims, fights for respect

From: The Spectator - Apr 17, 2003

by Michael Quiroz

It would seem in today's society, athletes are respected as being perfect specimens of the human body. They are toned, trim and devoid of anything that would inhibit their skill. But this couldn't be farther from the truth, for athletes aren't perfect demigod creatures that the Olympics make them out to be. They are real people, and it is their dedication that makes them stand out, not their physical "perfection."

Case in point, Megan Ackerman, a Seattle University senior who just completed an accomplished swimming career.

Ackerman has proven her ability time and time again as an excellent swimmer despite being partly deaf. In a sport in which so much relies on audible instruction such as the referee instructions and the starting horn, her lack of hearing has led to some set backs.

"I got up on my block and the starter said 'take your mark.' I grabbed my block, waiting for the beep...I waited, and I waited some more. I looked up and realized the race had already begun," Ackerman remembers. "I was the only one left on the blocks, and I immediately took off mortified and wondered if my coach would be upset. I was last when I began, but I moved up to third.

"For my next race I asked to be moved closer to the starter with someone behind me to let me know when to go. I could not stop laughing after that humiliating race."

Ackerman has continually found ways around her hearing impairment and has won many awards in and out of the pool, including, four gold medals in the Deaf Olympics in Coppenhagen. She also holds the deaf world record for the mile and won second place in a sign language/speech competition.

Being partly deaf has also led to difficulties outside of the pool.

"I tell people about my hearing impairment, and go into some detail about my disability, but because I seem 'hearing,' they treat me like a hearing person," Ackerman said. "They say they understand, but they don't, and I accept that, no biggie. At times I find that funny. Understanding seems to come with an impairment. When I want something to be repeated, most people laugh it off and there have been times I would feel left out, but I would not let it get to me."

After graduating this year with an English degree, Ackerman plans to take six months off before going to grade school to become a teacher. "I want to teach in the deaf culture mainly focusing on English?It will be good to go back and give back to my community in the deaf world."

Ackerman truly defines what a real athlete is, and shows that it is dedication, passion and heart that makes a true athlete.

© 2003 The Spectator