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January 6, 2005

Salem woman named to team USA

From: Salem Statesman Journal - Salem,OR,USA - Jan 6, 2005

Beechy will compete in soccer at the Deaflympics

Statesman Journal

January 6, 2005

Playing soccer seemed awkward for Kelli Beechy as a youngster.

But this determined athlete used soccer as the start of a wide-ranging athletic career.

That career has taken the Salem woman to a setting she was unaware of four years ago -- the 20th Summer Deaflympics in Melbourne, Australia.

Beechy, who has been deaf since birth, is a member of the 22-person American team that begins play today against Denmark. There are four other countries competing in women's soccer, a first-time sport in the Deaflympics.

Beechy, 23, is one of three participants with Oregon ties among 172 American athletes in the games. The others are soccer teammate Austra Bloms, formerly of Beaverton, and Bethany Hummel, basketball, of Portland. Hummel played for Western Oregon University in the 2002-2003 season.

After a standout high school career at Oregon School for the Deaf, Beechy went to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. While playing soccer in her freshman year, she learned of the Deaflympics.

"I had no vision of the Deaflympics," she said through interpreter Bill Cruscial. "It didn't seem important. But all the girls talked about it, and some told stories about competing in other deaf Olympic sports. It didn't seem important to me then."

But Beechy was an elite player on the 2000 Galldaudet team as a freshman and eventually gained interest in the Deaflympics.

"I feel it's my turn, my chance," she said. "I don't know what to expect, but I'm excited. Hopefully, we will bring back the gold medal."

Win or lose, there is one constant factor involving Beechy. She will be one of the hardest-working competitors on the USA team. Rick Wright, her former basketball coach at the deaf school, and John Beechy, her father, said Kelli is an energetic and skilled athlete.

"She has a natural talent for sports," said Wright, the current dean of student life at the deaf school. "When she was a freshman, she wanted to learn, and she was motivated to work as part of the team with the other girls. She was a leader, and she inspired other kids with her teamwork and sportsmanship."

John Beechy introduced soccer to Kelli when she was 6.

"My dad coached me for a few years," she said. "In that first year I was scared to approach the ball. Then I was the only girl on a boys team. But as I played more and more, I fell in love with it."

Beechy attended Sprague High School for part of her freshman year and was the only first-year player on the Olym-pians team. Showing her skills as an excellent runner and ball striker, she was a second team all-league selection.

But she then left soccer and Sprague for the deaf school to be in a more familiar environment. Oregon School for the Deaf doesn't have a soccer program.

"I wanted to be exposed to more deaf culture," she said. "I figured more socialization (there) would be a benefit for me."

Beechy was an all-star athlete in basketball and track at the deaf school. She has the single-game record of 32 points and the career scoring record. She was Class 1A state champion in the 400 meters in 1998.

At Gallaudet, she not only resumed playing soccer but also participated in basketball and softball. In the 2002-03 basketball season, she had single-game highs of 26 points, seven assists and four steals.

Beechy, who said she wanted to be on the first soccer team to represent America, earned a spot with the group during a tryout in Atlanta in late 2003. The entire team was finalized in August 2004. She hadn't planned on seeking a roster spot and only attended the tryout after many Gallaudet players convinced her.

"I said I wasn't good enough and not tough enough," she said. "I decided to go and see what would happen."

The team had training camps at different locations last year. The finale was from Dec. 28 to Jan. 4 in Ballarat, Australia.

"We are from different backgrounds," she said. "Many deaf girls come from schools that didn't have soccer. For some, it's their first exposure to signing. We all had to accept each other."

Beechy, a left-footed kicker, will use her enthusiasm and skills at the left midfield position in the Deaflympics.

"My role is to bring the ball to the middle and score," she said. "There will be a lot of running. I'll have to go up front, help out and then get back on defense."

But she said she is not looking forward to the summer heat in Australia.

Deaflympic rules require athletes to go without hearing aids during competition. They must have hearing loss of 55 decibels or greater to participate. Beechy's loss is 100 decibels.

Beechy's hearing loss hasn't slowed her down; she has a busy schedule between school, athletics and social events with other deaf people.

"I felt normal growing up in a hearing family," she said. "I was born to be an athlete. Playing on sports teams, I showed I could do it. It doesn't matter. I'm the same. I just can't hear."

Jane Mulholland, director at OSD, said Beechy helped develop self-discipline and confidence through athletics.

"It's given her a real sense of what she can do as an individual," Mulholland said. "She's very receptive to being coached. She's an excellent role model for her peers here and kids in general."

Mulholland said Beechy helped direct a girls basketball camp at OSD last summer.

"The kids loved her because she was a good communicator," Mulholland said. "She is a great example of a young person with developed ability. She has a lot of experience in interacting with hearing kids. She is a good example either for deaf kids or hearing kids."

John Beechy said one of Kelli's main attributes is her competitiveness.

"She likes to win," he said. "Her fantasy is to have the clock running down and score the winning shot. She did that at Gallaudet. She thrives on a tense situation." or (503) 399-6702

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