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June 19, 2004

North Phoenix athlete to play in Deaflympics

From: Arizona Republic - Phoenix,AZ,USA - Jun 19, 2004

Lois McFarland
Special for The Republic
Jun. 19, 2004 12:00 AM

Soccer isn't a graceful game, but a hard-charging team sport that uses the head, strong kicking ability and lots of energy to outrun and outmaneuver the competition.

One young woman who has proven her ability as a tenacious, hard-charging all-conference player is northeast Phoenix resident Megan Johnston.

Because of the 22-year-old's outstanding performance as a sweeper for her North Carolina college team, the Belmont Abbey Lady Crusaders, she was contacted by coaches for the U.S. Deaf Soccer Women's National Team.

After showing her ability at tryouts in Atlanta last November, she was named to the national team. She is one of three co-captains and has been training for the 20th Deaflympic Games, scheduled for Jan. 5-16 in Melbourne, Australia.

Challenges are not new to Megan, who has battled profound deafness for 20-plus years.

She was taught from the time she was a toddler to speak using her listening skills. She can hear sound with a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other.

Now she must learn sign language to compete in the games.

"I'm very excited about the team," she said. "I have made so many new friends, and it's opened up a whole new world to me. I have been taught to be oral, to speak only, so I know very little signing. My parents wanted me to be oral because there are more opportunities."

Growing up, Megan knew only one deaf person.

"Other than that, all of my friends were completely oral with normal hearing," she added.

At Shadow Mountain High School, only two other students wore hearing aids.

Being on the national team, however, is different.

"Some of the girls are completely deaf and sign and some can read lips," she said. "Some are like me and completely oral. In order for me to interact with the girls on the team, I have to learn sign language. I will be taking signing in the fall at Phoenix College."

When Megan removes her hearing aids, she experiences total silence.

"We are not allowed hearing aids at the Olympics," she added. "I have to take them off to ensure a level playing field. It's not unfair, but equal for everyone.

"People take for granted their hearing," she said. "If I take these off, I'm in a world of silence. My morning wake-up alarm is flashing lights instead of sound."

Megan is working this summer in Dr. Gregory Grant's orthopedic office to raise funds for her trip to Melbourne.

Each athlete is required to contribute a minimum of $4,800 of the $7,100 cost for each team member, according to the USA Deaf Soccer Association.

Those wishing to help Johnston can send a check or money order to USA Deaf Soccer Association in care of Tyson Kanoya, secretary and fund-raising coordinator, 1630 Liggett Drive, Crestwood, MO 63126. Write "For: Megan Johnston" in the note field.

Copyright 2004, All rights reserved.