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September 2, 2004

Students reach for the gold

From: Louisville Courier Journal, KY - Sep 2, 2004

Deaf Oral School has own Olympics

By Peter Smith
The Courier-Journal

As the Olympic fanfare swelled from a boom box, the athletes marched with the banners of the United States, Kenya, Japan and Guatemala.

A series of runners carried "torches" — rolled up tubes tipped with bright streamers — before lighting a full "flame" — actually a bouquet of red, orange and yellow tissue paper.

The Athens Olympics may be over, but for students at the Louisville Deaf Oral School, yesterday was a day to reach for the gold, or at least for some fun and geographical knowledge.

Louisville Olympiad events included tricycle races, archery, basketball and gymnastics. Competition was minimal, with teachers helping the cyclists move toward the finish line and carefully helping the archers aim at an unpopulated part of the parking lot.

The students had studied in advance the countries they were representing, and learned such terms as "backstroke" and "archery."

"It was a way to teach them vocabulary, a way to make them aware of what's going on," said teacher Gail Massey. "We had several students who were very interested" in the Olympics.

Students representing Japan, for example, wore T-shirts with the flags of that country, while those representing Kenya carried stuffed native animals, such as a giraffe and a zebra.

The school teaches children who are deaf or hard of hearing from preschool through primary grades. Many use hearing-aid devices such as cochlear implants.

The school has been a "touch of heaven," said Todd Ruhs, whose son Nathan, 4, is a student.

Children said they enjoyed their moment in the Olympic spotlight.

"Fun!" shouted Danazia Whitfield.

"Exciting!" said Nathan French.

They and other students added to the excitement with slam dunks into a basketball net that was set about their height.

After winning a gold medal in archery, Noah Trevino-Magee stood atop a small platform, flanked by the silver and bronze medalists, and held both hands in the air as the stereo played the national anthem of his team, Japan.

To prepare their son for the games, Todd and Jennifer Ruhs had watched the Olympics on television and talked about the wrestling, gymnastics and other events.

Nathan and his sister practiced diving off the sofa onto a pile of cushions.

For yesterday's games, Nathan beamed with pride after receiving a medal for doing a roll in the gymnastics routine.

"He will wear that till Christmas," his father said.

Copyright 2004 The Courier-Journal.