How many do you know? 15 amazing deaf sports stars!

Posted on January 24, 2015

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On Sunday, Derrick Coleman became the first deaf American Footballer to win the SuperBowl. Let’s take a look at him and some other well known (and some not so well known) deaf sports people who, in one way or another, inspire us just like Coleman does.

1. Ben Cohen – English Rugby Union World Cup winner 


Girls love him, men love him. Rugby players feared him. Cohen has a 33% hearing loss in both ears so he would probably have heard the crowd cheering during his fifteen year career which saw him play for Northampton, Brive and Sale Sharks. He scored 267 points in total and won the Rugby World Cup with England in 2003. 

2. Derrick Coleman – Superbowl winning American Footballer

Derrick Coleman

This guy has his own TV advert, looks like he could tear you to pieces and has won the SuperBowl. It’s Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman. From being bullied as a kid and overlooked for a pro career when he left college, Coleman fought all the way back .. and now he’s at the very top. He says his deafness made him what he is today, and that’s rock hard, dedicated and likeable.

3. Daniel Ailey – Fight-back footballer

Daniel Ailey

Daniel Ailey made it to the news last year after being abused by fans from Grays Athletic while he was playing for Potters Bar Town, simply because he’s deaf and sounded different.  But he wasn’t going to quit. He didn’t quit when he was rejected by Doncaster Rovers as a youngster. He didn’t quit when he broke his leg and spent a year out of the game. And he certainly won’t quit because of some mouthy morons from Essex.

 4. Mat Gilbert – Role-model Rugby Union pro  

Matt Gilbert

Mat’s coach Gary Gold said of him: “It is humbling to watch Gilbert. He is a fantastic human being.” Gilbert is profoundly deaf and started out playing as a semi-pro in Wales; despite only getting paid semi-pro money he trained full-time and landed a move to Bath who play in the Aviva Premiership, (one of the World’s top Rugby divisions) where he is the only deaf player. He works to encourage deaf kids into playing sport in his spare time.

5. Gerry Hughes – inspirational sailor who circumnavigated the globe

Gerry hughes

Gerry began sailing when he was a boy and dreamed that one day he would sail around the world. Fast forward a few years and that’s exactly what he did, becoming the first deaf man to sail solo around the world. His boat capsized on the way round, but did he give up? No! Of course not. People like Gerry don’t let go of their dreams that easily.

6. Laurentia Tan – Paralympic silver medal winning equestrian star

Laurentia Tan

Soon after she was born in Singapore, Laurentia developed cerebral palsy and deafness and at the age of three, her family came to the UK where she learned to ride horses to a very high standard. In fact, almost as high as you can get. She has four Paralympic medals in dressage. Deaf people can only compete in the Paralympics if they have a qualifying disability, like cerebral palsy. Just so you know.

 7. Duckhee Lee – Teenage Asian tennis sensation


Korean Duckhee Lee is profoundly deaf and says he can’t hear the line judge’s calls during matches but that clearly doesn’t actually matter. He’s 15 years old and making waves on the junior tennis circuit. He competed at Junior Wimbledon last year, is the Asian Junior Champion and has already won his first senior title.  If you’re good enough; you’re old enough.

8. Joe Swail – Million pound Snooker favourite

joe swail

Joe Swail, or ‘The Outlaw’ as he is known has a severe hearing loss but he considers that an advantage as he’s ‘less likely to be distracted’ by the crowd. He might have a point because he’s won over £1 million in prize money during his career. His best performance was runner-up in the Welsh Open in 2009.

9. Matt Hamill – UFC fighter who was always on the attack 

Matt hamillYou gotta be tough to be in the UFC and I mean really tough. Matt communicates using his hands – firstly using sign language – and then to knock people out. He got his nickname ‘the Hammer’ after quickly taking out a national champion in his first ever college wrestling match. His corner team in the UFC used different colour flags to give him information during fights, like orange for defend. But Hamill says: ‘I’m normally on the attack’

10. Luther Hayden ‘Dummy’ Taylor – Legendary deaf pitcher for the New York Giants

Luther Hayden TaylorBack in the days when people used offensive terms to describe deaf people, Luther Hayden Taylor, known as ‘Dummy’ Taylor rocked at baseball. And I mean, like, so totally rocked. He was totally deaf, used sign language to communicate and was a key part of the New York Giants Championship winning teams of 1904 and 1905. The whole team learned to use sign language because Taylor took it as an affront if they couldn’t converse with him. Equality.

11. The Silent Warrior – Bully-beating Amercian Pro Wrestler

The Silent warriotLouis Long, known as the Silent Warrior, began his pro-wrestling career in 2010 and was listed in the top 500 wrestlers by PWI magazine in 2012 and 2013. He has also fought his rival, Sean Midnight, the UK deaf wrestler in 2012 and has also set up The Deaf Wrestling Alliance. Long was bullied for years on account of his deafness until he fought back against three attackers, getting one in a sleeper hold. The Silent Warrior was born that day and he has never been unmasked in the ring.

12. Lou Ferrigno – Incredibly hulky body builder

louferrignoAt the age of two, Lou Ferrigno, aka the Incredible Hulk, lost 80% of his hearing due to an infection. He loved comic books and worked at having the body of a superhero, becoming the youngest man to win Mr Universe in 1972. He won it again in 1973. Ferrigno became best known as an actor playing the lead role in the TV series ‘The Incredible Hulk’ from 1977-1982. Face him when you talk to him. After all, you don’t want to make him angry.

13. Carlo Orlandi – Olympic gold medal winning Italian boxer

Carlo_OrlandiCarlo Orlandi was a deaf Italian boxer who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics. He won the gold medal in the lightweight class after winning the final against Stephen Halaiko. Orlandi talked with his fists and his amazing career included 97 victories and 19 defeats.

14. Rebecca Macree Squash’s no-nonsense deaf sensation

FOR SPORT...Loaded REBECCA MACREE08.JPG from /m/load0/PvLoad/People/Comms/isdn/REBECCA MACREE/ on 03102002

Image Copyright The People / Martin Spaven

Rebecca Mcaree was born deaf and won eight titles on the WISPA tour in a 17-year career. She earned a reputation as a tough no-nonsense competitor who would give referees and fellow competitors a run for their money. She had drive, determination and hit the ball as sweetly as any top pro.

and 15. Ashley Fiolek – The youngest ever female American National Motocross Champion 

ashley fiolekFour time American Women’s National Motocross Champion, Ashely Fiolek, is one of America’s finest Motocross racers. In 2008 she won her first title and became the youngest champion EVER. Born profoundly deaf, she is said to have single-handedly advanced the reputation and performance of Women’s Motocross in America more than anyone else. Why not share this article and you may inspire a deaf kid to become a world-beater. Find out about taking up deaf sports here.

Updates (including one from an olympian)

By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor. Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events as well as working for a hearing loss charity. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP (all views expressed are his own).

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Posted in: Andy Palmer