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December 5, 2004

Squad named for deaf Olympics

From: The Age, Australia - Dec 5, 2004

By Stathi Paxinos
December 5, 2004

Australia yesterday announced the Deaflympics squad to compete against more than 3000 athletes from nearly 100 countries in Melbourne and Ballarat next January.

The local team is the biggest yet selected: 152 deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes will participate in the 12-day event, which will be held in Australia for the first time since the carnival began in 1924.

Athletes will compete in sports such as athletics, swimming and basketball at Olympic Park and the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, while Ballarat will host the cycling, marathon and orienteering programs.

Australians will compete in 14 events, with handball the only sport where a team will not be entered.

Governor John Landy yesterday paid tribute to the athletes and made special note of the Deaflympics motto of being "equal through sport".

"We as spectators look forward to the opportunity to celebrate and draw positive inspiration from you and your achievements," Mr Landy said.

Middle-distance runner Joanne Lambert, who will be competing in her fifth Deaflympics, said through a sign-language interpreter that she was thrilled to be competing on home soil in front of her family and friends. Lambert, 38, who holds world records in the 3000 metres, 5000 metres and 10,000 metres, said the German and Mexican runners provided the strongest threat to her dominance in middle-distance events.

Profoundly deaf, she began as a sprinter in her first Deaflympics in 1985, is the 5000 and 10,000 metres champion.

Sam Quinn, co-captain of the men's basketball team, said his team was the most talented he had been involved with in three Deaflympics. Quinn said the team was aiming to finish in the top four, which it narrowly failed to do in his first Deaflympics in 1997, when the team was beaten by a shot on the buzzer.

Quinn said the Western and Eastern European teams would provide the hardest competition, with Australia to take on Greece, Ukraine and Russia in its pool matches. "You also have to remember Europe does compete at a higher level and we have to make sure that we are competing at the same level as we made a real effort to get up there," Quinn said.

Federal Sport Minister Rod Kemp said the Government had provided more than $4.5 million to help stage the Deaflympics and subsidise the athletes. "Among the many sporting and social benefits post these Games, I think will be an increased awareness and understanding of the deaf and hard-of-hearing culture, and I think this is a very important plus from these Games," he said.

Copyright © 2004. The Age Company Ltd.