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May 10, 2007

World deaf swim meet beckons senior standout

From: Indianapolis Star - Indianapolis,IN,USA - May 10, 2007

By Kristen Leigh Porter

Swimming has opened up a whole new world for Carlisle Robinson.

The Carmel High School senior, one of the nation's top deaf swimmers, is headed for her second international competition. She will represent the United States at the World Deaf Swimming Championships in August in Taipei, Taiwan. Robinson also swam at the 2005 Deaflympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.

"It's another wonderful opportunity to represent my country and socialize with deaf swimmers from other countries," said Robinson, 17, who communicates through sign language. "The Deaflympics was so much fun. . . . I'm really looking forward to the World Deaf Swimming Championships."

Robinson started swimming seriously when she was about 8 years old. She has trained with Central Indiana Aquatics, a USA Swimming club, and was a member of Carmel High's powerhouse program her freshman, junior and senior seasons.

She excelled at the Deaflympic Games in January of her sophomore year, taking home a bronze medal in the 200-meter butterfly and earning silver medals with the 800 freestyle and 400 medley relay teams. Robinson also finished fourth in the 100 butterfly.

She hopes that experience will serve her well in Taipei.

"I know what it's going to be like," Robinson said. "I have more confidence in myself, I'm older now. Before, I was one of the youngest on the swim team, and it was wonderful because they led me. But I'm looking forward to more competition, and I want to lead other athletes on this team as well."

Robinson proved worthy of a leadership position during last month's national team trials at the U.S. Deaf Swimming National Championships. She finished first in four long-course events -- the 50-, 100- and 200-meter butterfly and 50 freestyle -- and was second in the 100 and 200 freestyle.

The few adaptations for deaf swimmers include the use of a visual cue such as a light for the start. During high school and club competition held at venues without light systems, a tap on her heel sent her into the pool.

In and out of the water, Robinson has embraced being part of the hearing and deaf cultures.

Central Indiana Aquatics head coach Brian Hindson said Robinson is a hard worker and team leader at his club of about 130 swimmers from more than eight school districts.

"That also provides motivation for our younger kids as well, to see someone on our own team who does everything like we do, accomplish great things," Hindson said.

Many swimmers also have learned sign language to better communicate with the outgoing and likable Robinson.

Carmel junior and swim club teammate Beth Anderson, a good friend, connected with Robinson immediately.

"She doesn't let it stop her. She does everything anybody else can do and more," Anderson said. "It's really cool."

Robinson is able to attend mainstream school with help from an educational American Sign Language interpreter. She carries about a 3.5 grade-point average and was recently named a CHS Scholar Athlete.

In the fall, she will attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the world's only university specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students.

Robinson will continue swimming as a member of Gallaudet's swim program, which competes at the NCAA Division III level. "We are delighted to have a swimmer of her caliber and speed at Gallaudet," said Bisons coach Bill Snape.

Robinson hopes to encourage young deaf swimmers to join teams at all levels.

Her mother, Tina Robinson, recognizes the impact swimming has on her oldest child. "As a parent, it's important to have other deaf parents read about Carlisle and know the opportunities that exist out there," she said.

For more information, check out the U.S. Deaf Swimming Web site at

Call Star reporter Kristen Leigh Porter at (317) 444-5537.

© 2007