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Evening Times

John's in the running for Deaflympics

21-year-old John Ruddy first started athletics when he was at school

21-year-old John Ruddy first started athletics when he was at school

Published / Lifestyle

AS THE world watched the London 2012 Olympics, one athlete was dreaming of reaching the top spot in another event, although one not quite as well-known.

John Ruddy is deaf and hopes to make his sporting dreams come true by competing for a medal in next year's Deaflympics, the official games for elite-level deaf athletes.

The 21-year-old, from Kirkintilloch, said his love of sports began at school, where his aptitude for running was encouraged.

The former Lenzie Academy pupil said: "I was really into football but when I was at my school sports day I broke the school record for the 50m.

"Then one of the PE teachers told me about the local athletics club, the Kirkintilloch Olympians. I went down there for one year and I did much better with them than I did at football, so I dropped that and kept on with athletics."

John then joined Shettleston Harriers and was approached by another deaf athlete, Lauren Peffers from Edinburgh, who suggested he should compete in deaf athletics.

He went on to be selected to run at the European Deaf Athletics Championships in Bulgaria in 2007, when he was just 16.

He has since joined the Great British deaf athletics team and specialises in the 100m and 200m sprint at international level.

He has won a slew of major championships, including a bronze medal in the 200m at the Outdoor European Championships in Turkey, and set British records for the 100m and 200m in the same championships.

Unfortunately, just six weeks before competing in the World Deaf Athletic Championships in Toronto, Canada, this July, his medal-dreams were dashed after he pulled a hamstring muscle.

He said: "I managed to get into both semi-finals but the lack of training due to the injury took its toll and I just missed out on a place in the finals.

"I do feel, with the right help, I could win a Deaflympic medal next year as my personal best times were faster than the winners in both the 100m and 200m."

John, who communicates with the help of a hearing aid and by lip reading, lost his hearing when he was just two after battling with meningitis.

He said: "I don't really remember it when it happened, so my hearing loss didn't affect me and I just grew up not really knowing about it.

"But apparently it could have been much worse.

"I could have had brain damage or died so, at the end of the day, it was really the best outcome.

"I don't think it's ever set me back."

John's dad, also John, said: "I'm absolutely amazed about how well he's done.

"It's not just his athletics, it's his education as well, his Highers and two years at university.

"From the point of view of both, it's never held him back.

"I'm really proud and so is his mum. She's really pleased for him, after what he's been through, about what he's achieved.

John, 53, who works as a quality engineer in Clydebank, helps his son by applying for sponsors so he can compete in the various deaf events because, at the moment, there is no money available for the Deaflympics and deaf athletes.

John Snr feels they aren't getting the recognition they deserve.

He added: "I'm really annoyed about it. The deaf athletes train every bit as hard as the normal athletes and the paralympic athletes and they seem to be excluded from funding."

Currently there is a battle between Deaf UK Athletics and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport over the eligibility for deaf athletes and the Deaflympics to get separate funding.

Deaf athletes can only be funded if they are nominated through their national governing bodies (NGBs), as meeting the criteria to be part of the World Class Performance programme to contribute to the Olympic or Paralympic games.

At the moment, John will need to fund the £3200 to get to the next Deaflympics in Bulgaria next year through his own savings and sponsorship deals.

And that leaves him with mixed feelings about the recent London 2012 Olympics.

John said: "Watching the Olympics made me feel like I wanted to do well but, at the same time, I thought 'why can't I get the same kind of support?'

"A lot of people are saying the Olympics and the Paralympics are over but no one is mentioning the Deaflympics next year.

"It would be great if we could get some more recognition and support."

John can be contacted at: johnruddy1@hotmail.co.uk

fiona.mckay@ heraldandtimes.co.uk

THE Deaflympics are officially sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and run by the Comité International des Sports des Sourds, CISS (The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf).

The need for separate games for deaf athletes comes from the distinction that deaf athletes cannot be guided by sounds such as starter's gun, bullhorns or whistles and have to communicate differently during team games.

Different methods are used instead, such as referees waving flags or lights being used to signal the start of races.

The Deaflympics are split into the Summer Deaflympics, which first began in 1924, and the Winter Deaflympics which followed in 1949.

Both events occur every four years.

They are among the world's fastest growing games, with more than 4000 deaf athletes from 77 nations competing in the 21st Summer Deaflympics in Taipei in 2009.

The 22nd Summer Deaflympics will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2013.

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