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January 28, 2005

Camaraderie, gold medal top Deaflympics highlights for OSD alum

From: Salem Statesman Journal - Salem,OR,USA - Jan 28, 2005

Salem's Kelli Beechy made key goals to help team win

Statesman Journal

January 28, 2005

Participating in the Deaflym-pics was beyond what Salem's Kelli Beechy ever imagined. She hated to see the two-week experience end.

Beechy, a 2000 graduate of the Oregon School for the Deaf, played a key role in the U.S. women's soccer team's gold medal performance Jan. 4-16 at the Deaflympics in Melbourne, Australia.

Beechy, 23, scored two goals apiece in the semifinals and championship match.

But for Beechy and her parents, John and Claudia, the saddest part was saying goodbye to other team members and their families.

"When it was over, there was this feeling of panic," said John Beechy, who sat with other U.S. players' families during the games. "Suddenly, we were separating after this feeling of accomplishment. We had fun together."

Kelli, who is one of the top all-around athletes in Oregon School for the Deaf history, said team members celebrated all night after clinching the gold medal in a 3-0 win against Russia.

"We went to Hard Rock Cafe, met different people and didn't even go to bed that night," she said by e-mail from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., where she is a junior. "We didn't sleep until our flight the next day. Even our coach joined us in the celebrations, which made it even more special."

Beechy said the team grew closer starting during training sessions.

"We just couldn't believe (winning the gold medal) because we had gone through so much, with the coming and going of teammates," she said. "It felt like, finally, we made it. It was all worth it."

Beechy, a left midfielder, had been scoreless in the Deaflym-pics until getting two goals in the 7-0 semifinal win against Denmark. Then she scored the first and third goals in the finale.

"I was always kicking the ball up the field to the forwards for them to score," she said of the earlier games. "In the last two games I pushed myself to a higher level because I knew it was now or wait another four years for my chance to help win the gold. This caused me to attack more aggressively on offense."

Beechy said the final was an even battle until she was in the right place at the right time.

"Erin Coppedge made a beautiful through pass while I ran by two defenders on the left side and kicked a left-footer into the far side of the net," she said. "That's when we got lit up and started playing with fire. On my second goal, the goalie dived to block a shot, and I knew while the ball was in the air that there would be a rebound possibility. I ran and slid at the last minute before the goalie could get the ball and knock it in, which I would call lucky."

Beechy said she was so focused in the championship game she didn't notice the crowd that often. But she knew the U.S. team had a big rooting section based on the banners and colors.

"It was obvious which section was cheering us on by the obvious red, white and blue," she said. "They were pretty crazy fans, cheering nonstop by waving their arms, yelling, stomping and waving different sized banners. It was always best looking over after we scored a goal."

Although it was summer in Australia, Beechy compared Melbourne to Seattle.

"It was very cool, but sometimes the weather changed dramatically," she said. "It was almost always windy, but it was about as perfect as you could have asked for. The food was similar to America."

Because the team arrived a week early for training, Beechy was in Australia for three weeks. She visited zoos and aquariums and had the most fun at the flea markets.

But the memories of bonding with teammates from across the country to achieve a goal will last forever.

"The whole experience was something that I never thought would be like it was," she said. "The whole Deaflympics, the training, the teammates and the actual competition playing against a different deaf team. And seeing everyone on my team, especially those who have never been in the deaf world, exposed to an entirely new culture was exciting." or (503) 399-6702.

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