An ASL Dictionary

Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

And Much More!

Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

Sign of the Day - DICTIONARY

Blog Articles by: Marta Belsky

Living Loud: Charles

Living Loud: Charles "CJ" Jones – Comedian, Actor, Producer, and Director

Deaf Culture   |  Tuesday, October 2, 2018

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

CJ Jones and Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver
CJ Jones and Ansel Elgort in "Baby Driver" (2017) (Photo Credit: Sony Pictures, Photo by Wilson Webb - © 2017 TriStar Pictures, Inc. and MRC II Distribution Company L.P., Retreived from IBDb)

Named Charles Paul Jones at birth, Jones, who prefers to go by CJ, claims that his life is all about "who I am, not what I am." He does not want his deafness to be his claim to fame. His journey in the world of comedy is fast becoming his legacy. You may recognize him from the 2017 summer hit "Baby Driver," which made CJ the first black deaf actor in an international Blockbuster. To both the deaf and hearing worlds, CJ Jones brings hope and compassion for our future.

The Flourishing Student

CJ is the son of Deaf parents and has 6 hearing siblings. His parents and all of his brothers and sisters used American Sign Language. At the early age of seven, CJ contracted spinal meningitis. This major illness left CJ with a profound hearing loss. To further his education, CJ transferred to Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD), moving away from his entire family. His deaf father, Clarence, fought the Missouri school system to get CJ a place in the all deaf school when they were told CJ’s residual hearing was too good to qualify for MSD. CJ said his dad, "showed a lot of love and support, encouraging us to have the best education." CJ excelled in the communication rich environment at MSD, which taught in his native American Sign Language. After graduating high school, CJ continued his education by enrolling at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) in Rochester, New York. He immediately joined and then later toured for two years with NTID’s National Theater for the Deaf, which started him on his way to popularity and becoming nationally known for his hilarious and heart-warming comedy routines.

The Traveling Comedian

CJ Jones One-Man Comedy Show
CJ Jones One-Man Comedy Show

CJ remembers while he was growing up, he was always a comedian, making everyone laugh and feel at ease no matter who and where they were in life. Now as an adult, traveling around the world, he says things are still the same. He likes making people smile. His good-natured ways and high-spirited personality has set him up for a profession in entertainment. People, both deaf and hearing, are drawn to his fast-paced humor and quick-witted performances, poking fun, and using his graciousness and passion for communicating through humor and American Sign Language.

The Restless Entertainer

CJ Jones in See What I’m Saying
CJ Jones in “See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary" (2009) (Photo Credit: IMDb, See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary)

CJ has been in the business of entertaining for the past thirty-five years, spreading his message that being different does not mean being less worthwhile. He developed 3 one-man shows and is the only Deaf African American comedian that has traveled all over the world. He is also one of only four Deaf performers showcased in the 2009 documentary "See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary." He appeared in PBS’s "Through Deaf Eyes" and has had roles in several television shows, including Cold Case, A Different World, Frasier, and Sesame Street. He co-wrote and directed all six of the children’s fairytales in the "Once Upon A Sign" television series. Undoubtedly, these television roles were his best promotional roles. Movies are another claim to CJ Jones’ fame with roles in "Baby Driver," HULU’s "Castle Rock" and the upcoming 2020, Avatar Sequels.

“I think I have made an impact on the deaf community through my humor, experience, and share my success by overcoming obstacles and discrimination. I can prove that anything is possible. It has nothing to do with being deaf or black or any disability and color, it has to do with passion to do greater things in life!”
     - CJ Jones

The Inspirational Role Model

When looking at his life, CJ is himself amazed at all he has accomplished in his sixty-eight years. From childhood of being black and deaf, he has never had a problem expressing himself and turned that ability into a profession of outstanding success. He is adamant about American Sign Language being his connection to his profession and communicating to the world. He is proud of the fact he has performed in thousands of schools, theaters, and universities.

This quote from CJ says it all, "I think I have made an impact on the deaf community through my humor, experience, and share my success by overcoming obstacles and discrimination. I can prove that anything is possible. It has nothing to do with being deaf or black or any disability and color, it has to do with passion to do greater things in life!"

Resources

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Living Loud: Ella Mae Lentz - Poet, Educator, and Advocate

Living Loud: Ella Mae Lentz - Poet, Educator, and Advocate

Deaf Culture   |  Friday, April 20, 2018

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Ella Mae Lentz is a Deaf American poet, author, educator and advocate. She was born on May 5, 1954 in Berkeley, California to two Deaf parents and has one Deaf brother. In 1971, Lentz graduated from the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley (now known as the California School for the Deaf in Freemont), and went on to Gallaudet University. She graduated from Gallaudet in 1975 with degrees in English and Drama. 

ASL Poet, Performer, and Advocate

Lentz is widely known for her ASL poetry. Many people have studied her poems and have even performed them as reproductions. Some of her original poetry has been published in the video “The Treasure: Poems by Ella Mae Lentz.” A few examples of her poems can be found on YouTube, including The Door (1995), The Rosebush (2008), and To A Hearing Mother (2010).

Lentz was on a talk show titled “Silent Perspectives” in 1974, on television in the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show “Rainbow’s End” in 1979, a Milwaukee Repertory reproduction of the movie “Children of a Lesser God” in 1980 as character Sarah Norman, and on video with Baker and Cokely’s ASL curriculum commonly referred to as “The Green Books.”

“Instead of looking at what deaf people can’t do, we need to look at ourselves as people who are visual, and who have a community, we need to look at ourselves in a very positive view to confirm who we are as deaf individuals.”
     - Ella Mae Lentz

Lentz has also done hundreds of presentations around the country on ASL, Deaf Culture and Deafhood. At one presentation, Lentz is quoted as saying “Instead of looking at what deaf people can’t do, we need to look at ourselves as people who are visual, and who have a community, we need to look at ourselves in a very positive view to confirm who we are as deaf individuals.” This quote is also representative of her many works of poetry, which focus on bringing Deafhood to the forefront in mainstream American culture as well as Deaf Culture to bolster a sense of community and pride associated with being Deaf. She helped to found the Deafhood Foundation in February 2009 and continues to be on the board of directors. Her goal is to encourage people (hearing and Deaf) to look at Deafhood as an identity based on visual capacity rather than the inability to hear. Lentz also promotes examining traditional definitions of community, ability, relationships and communication that at the same time challenge perspectives of American history related to Deaf people and culture. For example, her interpretation of the National Anthem takes a very direct and personal stance toward American Deaf people that places the focus on Deaf struggles and victories in American history.

Terminology

Deafhood - Deafhood is a Deaf person's unique personal journey to discover and understand themselves as a Deaf person. The term was coined by Dr. Paddy Ladd and was described in an article in Gallaudet Today in 1993. Ladd later wrote a book on the subject in 2003, called Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood.


Educator

Although she is a well-known ASL performer and author, teaching has always been at the core of Lentz’s career and influence. She has over 30 years of experience in academia. She has done research on ASL at many institutions, including: Gallaudet, Northeastern University in Boston, Salk University in San Diego, and the University of California in San Francisco. She also has taught at multiple institutions; Gallaudet University, Ohlone College in Freemont, California and Berkeley City College until her retirement in 2007.

Lentz has developed educational and training material for ASL such as: the National Consortium of Programs for the Training of Sign Language Instructors (NCPTSLI) and the Signing Naturally curriculum series. The NCPTSLI came as a result of a Federal grant program with the National Association of the Deaf with the goal of upgrading ASL instruction, and for two years, Lentz developed and tested curricula and recruited and trained instructors. The Signing Naturally curriculum series started with a three year grant through Funds for Improvement of Post Secondary Education to develop curriculum for teaching ASL as a second language. Her work on the Signing Naturally curriculum continues today.

Advocacy Continues

After retiring from teaching, Lentz formed the company ASL Presents in 2007, which offers services in coaching, consulting, presentations, performances, and ASL and Deaf Culture curriculum. She continues to be an advocate for ASL, Deaf Culture, and Deafhood.

Lentz is married to her longtime partner, Judy D. Gough. The couple has raised five children, of whom the youngest is Deaf. They also have ten grandchildren, of which three are Deaf. They love animals and have had dogs, cats, llamas, a goat, rabbits, rats, a mouse, and iguanas.

For more information on what Lentz is currently working on, visit the ASL Presents website.

Resources

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Living Loud: Lou Ferrigno – The Incredible Hulk of acting, bodybuilding, fitness training, and motivational speaking

Living Loud: Lou Ferrigno – The Incredible Hulk of acting, bodybuilding, fitness training, and motivational speaking

Deaf Culture   |  Monday, October 24, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Lou Ferrigno is an actor, retired professional bodybuilder, fitness trainer, motivational speaker, and deputy sheriff.1 He is most well-known for portraying The Incredible Hulk, but has been in over 35 movies and 65 television shows,4 won the bodybuilding titles of Mr. America and Mr. Universe (twice), and is a Guinness Book world record holder.1

Growing Up: Challenged by Hearing Loss

Lou Ferrigno as a child
Lou Ferrigno as a child. (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
Louis Jude “Lou” Ferrigno was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 9, 1951. Soon after he was born he suffered from a series of ear infections, which caused him to lose 75% of his hearing.1 This hearing loss was not diagnosed until Ferrigno was 3 years old and he began wearing hearing aids at age 4. The hearing aids only helped improve his hearing marginally. He learned to understand what others were saying by lipreading. He said because “aids weren’t as advanced in those days, I developed very defective speech. That was harder to deal with than the hearing loss, because people assumed I was dumb when they heard me talk. I had difficulty making myself understood. That’s why I didn’t talk much, just enough to get what I needed.” 3

He went to public school and said his dad “made sure that at home I spoke the best I could, and he never gave me special attention. He treated me as though I was normal and my brother and sister accepted me that way. Dad was determined that I be normal, even if I wasn’t. That’s why I had to work twice as hard at everything.” 3

He couldn’t hear when he was in class, but was too shy to ask any of his teachers if he could sit up front where he could hear and didn’t let anyone know about the problem. He tried to isolate himself from his classmates. 3 “They used to call me ‘deaf Louie,’ ‘deaf mute,’ because of my hearing and because of the way I sounded.”5 He was teased and bullied, sometimes resulting in schoolyard fights that he would lose.7

Getting Pumped Up: Inspired and Determined to Be Strong

He was skinny, small, and introverted.5 He turned to comic books for comfort. “I felt devastated and emotionally insecure. I would just read the comics and it would give me inspiration and hope.”7 Superman and The Incredible Hulk were his favorites. After pretending to be Superman by putting on a red blanket as a cape and jumping off of the second story of his apartment, he hit the cement hard and decided Superman wasn’t his favorite anymore.5 He thought of the Hulk as “the green Santa Claus” because of his instinct to protect the good.7 Ferrigno also liked the Hulk because he was obsessed with the feeling of being powerful.5 “I wanted to be so strong, so invincible so I could command the same power the Hulk does... and that’s how that connection began.”7 He then made it his mission to be strong as well.

Lou Ferrigno at bodybuilding competition
Lou Ferrigno at a bodybuilding competition with Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
At age 13 Ferrigno started weight training. Bodybuilder and Hercules star, Steve Reeves, was one of his role models.1 Before he could afford his own set of barbells, he made one out of a broomstick and cement weights.2 Ferrigno won his first major bodybuilding titles as Mr. America and Mr. Universe in 1973, at the age of 21. His Mr. Universe title was, and still is to this day, a Guinness Book World record for the youngest person to win the Mr. Universe title. Ferrigno competed for the Mr. Olympia competition in 1974 and got second place.1

Ferrigno worked throughout his early bodybuilding career as a sheet metal worker in a Brooklyn factory. He did not enjoy this dangerous work. He left after a friend and co-worker accidentally cut off his hand. Ferrigno left the competition circuit for a period that included a brief stint as a defensive lineman for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. However, he had never played football and was cut after two games.1

Living a Childhood Dream: Becoming The Incredible Hulk

In 1977 television producers started to seek the right person to portray the larger-than-life comic book superhero, “The Incredible Hulk.” They were interested in Ferrigno for the part because he was the biggest professional bodybuilder at that time with his 6’5”, 285 lb. frame. When Ferrigno heard about the role he said, “It’s mine,” and wanted the part more than anything.5 He auditioned for the part of the green-skinned Goliath and he won it over another well-known bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.1

The Incredible Hulk turning over a car.
The Incredible Hulk turning over a car. (Photo Credit: CBS, The Incredible Hulk, Season 2: Episode 3 "Ricky" [Originally Aired: October 6, 1978])
Ferrigno was a hulk in real life as well. He has told the story of moving a parked car out of its spot and onto the street so he could make room to park his Volkswagen.2 Another account happened while on set of The Incredible Hulk, where Ferrigno worked long, 16 hour days. He was supposed to flip a car with the aid of a steel cable lift, but it had broken. He was exhausted and annoyed about still being on set at 4 a.m. and didn’t want to wait for a new cable. He told them to start shooting and tilted the car up off the road and pushed it down the embankment, and that was a wrap for that shoot!7

Ferrigno continued playing the Hulk role until 1981. The Incredible Hulk was a huge ratings success and spawned several TV movies after the initial TV series completed. 1

After playing The Incredible Hulk for 5 years, Ferrigno went on to be in over 35 movies and 65 television shows. He followed in the steps of his role model Steve Reeves and starred in Hercules (1983). He has played himself in Surge of Power (2004), I Love You, Man (2009), and the CBS sitcom The King of Queens (2002-2007). He was a competitor on reality TV show The Celebrity Apprentice (2012), where he raised $50,000 for his charity, the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He has also been in multiple documentaries, including Pumping Iron (1977) and Stand Tall (1997). He has performed as the Hulk in 6 TV shows and voiced the Hulk in the movies The Incredible Hulk (2008), The Avengers (2012), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).4

Today: Still Focused on Health, Conquering Challenges, and Being a Real-Life Hero

Ferrigno family
The Ferrigno Family: "The First Family of Bodybuilding" (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
Ferrigno is married to psychotherapist Carla Green, who also was his manager. She later became a personal trainer herself. They live in California and have three children – Shanna, Lou Jr., and Brent. Fitness has always been a family activity and now that their children are grown up, they are also involved in the health and fitness industry. They call themselves “The First Family of Bodybuilding.” Ferrigno has been a personal trainer for Michael Jackson, Mickey Rourke, Chuck Norris, and others. He continues to do private training, as does his children Lou Jr. and Shanna. Ferrigno believes the key to health is a balance between mind, body, and spirit. Together, he and his daughter Shanna started Ferrigno FIT – a brand and community focused on healthy living.1, 8

Ferrigno continues to be a motivational speaker and has been a spokesperson for the Better Hearing Institute for 25 years and a supporter of the Starkey Hearing Foundation. He tells others to try being the best of themselves in life, no matter what problems they might face along the way.2 He says his hearing loss presented him with a challenge in life and his journey has been filled with ups and downs, but you can’t be a quitter. “I believe the maxim that you only get out of life what you put into it. I found my courage to persevere because I don’t believe in defeat. I am a survivor, and I love challenges. I always say either yes or no, never maybe. And I don’t use the word hope. I either do it, or I don’t do it; I don’t hope to do it.”3

"I don’t use the word hope. I either do it, or I don’t do it; I don’t hope to do it."

  - Lou Ferrigno

Ferrigno on duty
Lou Ferrigno, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Deputy. (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
Ferrigno has joined forces with several law enforcement agencies, including becoming a reserve sheriff deputy for Los Angeles County, California in 2006, a volunteer member of the sheriff posse for Maricopa County, Arizona in 2010, and a reserve peace officer for the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s office in 2012. Ferrigno has dedicated 20 hours a month to the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s office since 2012. It’s not an honorary post. Ferrigno attended the police academy in southern California, is certified, and has police authority. Ferrigno said, “I'm very happy to be a real-life hero, protecting life and property.”6

Resources

  1. About Ferrigno. Ferrigno Ferrigno. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://louferrigno.com/pages/about-us
  2. Borrelli, Anthony. (2010, April 22). ‘Hulk” motivates SUNY Cortland students: Strongman speaks to audience of 400 about his career, making most of what you have. Cortland Standard. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://www.cortlandstandard.net/articles/04222010n.html
  3. Ferrigno, Ferrigno. (1981, February 9). No Longer Silenced by Hearing Loss, the Hulk Debuts in a Speaking Role. People Magazine. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://people.com/archive/no-longer-silenced-by-hearing-loss-the-hulk-debuts-in-a-speaking-role-vol-15-no-5/
  4. Filmography. Ferrigno Ferrigno. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://louferrigno.com/pages/filmography
  5. Ferrigno Ferrigno. Oprah: Where are they now? Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://www.wherearetheynow.buzz/first-look-how-lou-ferrigno-became-the-incredible-hulk/
  6. (2014, November 21). Ferrigno Ferrigno: Volunteer reserve SLO County sheriff's deputy. KSBY NBC 6. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://www.ksby.com/story/28680324/lou-ferrigno-volunteer-reserve-slo-county-sheriffs-deputy
  7. Pioneers of Television: Ferrigno Ferrigno. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/pioneers-of-television/pioneering-people/lou-ferrigno/
  8. ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Ferrigno Ferrigno on Marriage and Family [video]. Huffington Post. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/29/lou-ferrigno-bullied-bodybuilding-hulk_n_4676191.html

Top Graphic Photo Source: Demolition Man. (2013, September 24). Lou Ferrigno: The Incredible Legend [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQJCpKwbqWU

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Living Loud: Charles Jules Henry Nicolle - First Deaf Nobel Award Recipient

Deaf Culture   |  Wednesday, September 28, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Charles Jules Henry Nicolle was the first deaf Nobel Prize recipient. The Nobel Prize is awarded annually in Stockholm, Sweden and is widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, and economics. Nicolle received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1928.

Charles Nicolle
Charles Nicolle at his microscope - the most famous photo of him. (Photo Credit: Henri Roussel [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Nicolle was born hearing, in Rouen, France, on September 21, 1866. His father was a physician, and so, in spite of a wide range of interests including history, literature, and philosophy, he followed his father’s footsteps and also became a doctor. His choice became a challenge as he experienced a progressive hearing loss, and by the age of 20 was deaf.

Nicolle became the Director of Pasteur Institute in Tunis, Tunisia in 1902. North Africa was a good place to study infectious diseases, including brucellosis, diphtheria, leprosy, malaria, measles, Mediterranean spotted fever, relapsing fever, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and typhus.

Typhus had been highly communicable and a frequently fatal disease. It devastated armies during wars and prisoners living under unsanitary conditions, it affected displaced populations suffering from famine, floods, and other natural disasters, and in general, it was a disease of poverty. Dr. Nicolle studied this disease for seven years, and discovered that lice were responsible for transmitting the disease. The discovery came about after he observed typhus patients spread the disease to others both inside and outside of the hospital, even their clothes seemed to spread the disease. The patients were no longer infectious after they had a hot bath and clean clothes. Controlling and eliminating lice meant controlling and eliminating typhus. For this life-saving discovery, Dr. Nicolle won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1928.

"The disclosure of a new fact, the leap forward, the conquest over yesterday’s ignorance, is an act not of reason but of imagination, of intuition."

  - Charles Nicolle

Nicolle died in 1936 at the age of 69 in Tunis, where he was still a bacteriologist and Director of the Pasteur Institute. Both of his two sons, Marcelle and Pierre, followed in his footsteps and became well-known physicians. Nicolle has been honored on postage stamps in France, Tunis, and Guyana. He forever changed biomedical science and his discoveries helped to save millions of lives.

Charles Nicolle Postage Stamps
Charles Nicolle Postage Stamps from France, Tunisia (1952), and Guyana.
(Photo Credits: The Postage Stamp Collection Modern Medicine Foundations, Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, UTMB Health, Nobel Stamps)

Resources

  1. Schultz, M. and Morens, D. (2009, September). Charles-Jules-Henri Nicolle. Emerging Infectious Disease, 15(9). Retrieved 8/16/2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819868/
  2. Charles Nicolle. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/16/2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Nicolle
  3. Nobel Prize. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/16/2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Living Loud: Terence Parkin - Olympian

Deaf Culture   |  Wednesday, August 17, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Terence Parkin, nicknamed the “Silent Torpedo,” has been called the Michael Phelps of the Deaflympics.1 He has competed for South Africa in Olympic and Deaflympic Games, World Cup and Pan American Competitions. Parkin is the Deaflympics’ most successful athlete since its inception in 1929; holding the record of the most medals - 34 in total. He has participated in 5 Deaflympics, in which he won 29 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze medals, plus South Africa won the bronze when he competed in the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne.2 He also earned an Olympic Medal for the 200m breaststroke in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.3

Terence Parkin was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe on April 12, 1980. He was born deaf, but his parents, Neville and Bev didn’t realize he was deaf and it was not confirmed by doctors until he was 18 months old. His father Neville said, "We were both young when he was born and, being our first kid, we weren't really sure. His baby talk was normal, he laughed, he smiled - he was like a normal kid." There was a lack of educational options and support system for deaf children in Zimbabwe at that time, so the Parkins decided to move to Durban, South Africa when Terence was three years old. Another literal bump in the road for Parkin occurred when he was in a car accent as a child. He preserved and his scar and shaved head became one of his trademarks in swimming competitions.6

Parkin at the pool
Parkin at the pool. (Photo Credit: Terence Parkin / Son Koerant Twitter)

He loved water and began swimming at age 12. He said, "I just love swimming, I enjoy it so much. I actually enjoy the feeling of getting tired from swimming.”6 But it was hard work and dedication that propelled Parkin to success. His coach, Graham Hill said, "I saw a kid who really wanted to get into swimming, but wasn't quite up to the standard of the other kids his age. He had more enthusiasm than the other kids. but just wasn't there. We used to laugh about it, we still do laugh about it. Terence was really slow when he came.”6

It was at the Midmar Mile held in South Africa, the world’s largest open water swimming event, that he first made his mark. “Starting in the second batch of swimmers in the 13-and-under age group, behind all the seeds, he powered through the field and, when the times had been adjusted, he had taken a stunning victory. It was astounding, but Parkin has been doing astounding things all his life.”7

Parkin was dedicated to training and would spend hours everyday swimming, cycling, and running. He said, “Success is 90% attitude and 10% training….with the right attitude you can do anything.  The worst disability is (bad) attitude!”1

Just getting warmed up.

In 1997, at age 17, Parkin competed in his first Deaflympics in Copenhagen, and won seven medals: five gold and two silver.

Parkin's Olympic Silver Medal for the 200m Breaststroke
Parkin's 2000 Olympic Silver Medal for the 200m Breaststroke (Photo Credit: Terence Parkin / Graham Hill News Twitter)

In 2000, Parkin completed in his first Olympic games at the age of 20 in Sydney. He said "I am going to the Olympics to represent South Africa, but it's so vitally important for me to go, to show that the deaf can do anything. They can't hear, they can see everything. I would like to show the world that there's opportunities for the deaf.”5 He was the only deaf swimmer in the Games and claimed a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke.3 After he finished the race, unable to hear stadium commentators announcing the results, Parkin looked to the scoreboard, where he saw a “2” next to his name and thought that was just his lane number. He was ecstatic a few moments later when he realized the "2" meant he had gotten second place and won the Olympic silver medal.9

People often wonder how Parkin can hear the sound that signals the start of the race. The “signal” to start races has changed over time, from a gun being shot in the air, to a very loud buzzer, to a buzzer and a strobe light. Parkin watches for the strobe light, but before strobe lights were used his couch would signal to him or use a light like a camera flash.6 In footage of Parkin’s races at the Sydney games, it appears the FINA referee holds his hand out, giving the visual signal for “set.”8

Parkin Swimming
Parkin swimming (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

Terence tried to use hearing aids during a race once, but the crowd noise was distracting. "I can concentrate, I can focus on what I'm doing. I don't have to listen to the discussion or negative talk around me, So I'm able to focus. I don't have to worry about what other people say.”6 He hopes to inspire deaf athletes, as well as athletes from smaller countries, and show that with hard work you can be successful and you can win Olympic medals.4 5

In 2001, at the Rome Deaflympics, Parkin claimed five more golds – the 100m and 200m freestyle, the 100m and 200m breaststroke, and the 400m individual medley.

Parkin won the Midmar Mile in 2000 and 2002 - the world's largest open water swimming event and the race where he first felt a taste of success when he participated in the 13-and-under age group.

And the medal count climbs.

Parkin with many medals
Parkin with many Deaflympic medals. (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

At the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne, Parkin became the most successful competitor in the history of the Games, winning an incredible 12 gold medals and one silver.

In the freestyle, he won the 100m and 400m in Games record times and captured the 200m and 1500m with world records.

He won the 50m breaststroke with a world record time, and also claimed the 100m and 200m breaststroke titles.

To this he added the 200m butterfly, with another world record, as well as the 200m and 400m individual medley. Parkin was also part of another two world records, in the 4x100m medley relay and the 4x200m freestyle relay. His silver came in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Parkin cycling
Parkin cycling. (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

Additionally, his 13 medals help South Africa to win bronze in the overall medal count at the 2005 Deaflympics, with a total of 19 metals.

At the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei, Parkin was back on the winner’s podium with 7 gold medals for the 50m, 100m, and 200m breaststroke, the 200m and 400m individual medley, and the 200m and 1500m freestyle.

Oh, and he also won a cycling bronze in the 93-kilometer road race! It wasn’t his first race; in 2005, he won gold at the World Deaf Cycling Championships in the 120km road race and picked up silver in the mountain bike event.

Legacy of a Champion

Parkin South African Stamp
Parkin's 2001 South African Stamp cycling. (Photo Credit: Colnect)

Parkin has become an icon. He has won over 400 gold medals, 200 silver medals, and 50 bronze medals through various competitions, and continues to hold Deaf World Records.1 He has participated in 2 Olympics, 5 Deaflympics, 2 Commonwealth Games, 1 Goodwill Games, FINA World Championships, FINA Swimming World Cups, Pan Pacific Championships, Africa Games, South Africa National Championships, and 24 Midmar Miles. He had a South African stamp issued in his honor in 2001. He has also been named an ambassador of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. He has received many awards including World Deaf Sportsman of the Year (1997, 2000, 2001, 2005), CISS Sportsman of the Century (2000), SA Schools Sportsman of the Year (2002), and Gold Presidential Awards (2000, 2001, 2002).1 Additionally, in 2011 Parkin saved a 7 year old boy from drowning after he got his arm stuck in a swimming pool vent at a Johannesburg gym.10

Today Parkin lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife and two children. He coaches sports at the St. Vincent School for the Deaf.11

Resources

  1. Ambassadors & Advisors: Terence Parkin. Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.fondationprincessecharlene.mc/en/ambassadors-advisors/terence-parkin
  2. Terence Parkin. Deaflympics. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://deaflympics.com/athletes.asp?7679
  3. Terence Parkin. Olympics. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://www.olympic.org/terence-parkin
  4. Griffin, Stan. Olympic Silver to Deaf South African Swimmer. Deaf Friends International. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.workersforjesus.com/dfi/857.htm
  5. Terence Parkin. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence_Parkin
  6. (2000, March 12). Terence Parkin - The silent success. SABC Carte Blanche. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://swimhistory.org/champions/1992/terence-parkin?start=1
  7. (2013, July 12). Parkin: Deaflympics legend continues South African. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from  http://www.southafrica.info/news/sport/deaflympics-parkin-120713.htm#.V64Q7WXzQUU
  8. Flaherty, Bryan (2012, April 19). USA Swimming will allow hand signals to accommodate deaf athletes at Olympic trials. The Washington Post. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/usa-swimming-will-allow-hand-signals-to-accommodate-deaf-athletes-at-olympic-trials/2012/04/19/gIQAkcbEUT_story.html
  9. Cloete, Rob (2011, November 1). The Hard of Hearing Hero. The South African. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.thesouthafrican.com/the-hard-of-hearing-hero/
  10. (2011, January 21). Olympic swimmer saves boy. Sport24. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.sport24.co.za/OtherSport/Olympic-swimmer-saves-boy-20110121
  11. romanSA (2005, April). Celebrating Terence Parkin, a South African sporting hero and icon. SkyScraperCity. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=986408
  12. Terence Parkin. Twitter. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://twitter.com/TerenceParkin

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

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