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USA Deaf Tennis Announces Team for 2013 Sofia Deaflympics

June 19, 2013 09:58 AM

Three from the USTA/Midwest Section were selected for 2013 Summer Deaflympics; Richard Noel and Jenny Woyahn Selected for USA Team, Howard Gorrell to serve as team’s Tennis Leader

Last month the Tennis Committee of the USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF) chose its team for the upcoming 2013 Summer Deaflympics. Built on 85 years of tradition, the Deaflympics are modeled after the Olympic Games.
From July 26 through August 4, the host city of Sofia, Bulgaria is expecting nearly 5,000 athletes from 80 countries to participate in 18 different sports, including tennis. Three players from the USTA/Midwest Section will be participating, two participating as players, the other serving as official Tennis Leader.
Richard Noel, from Indianapolis, Ind. and member of the Indianapolis West Tennis Club, is one of the players representing the Midwest Section. Noel says he was so excited to learn that he had been chosen for the team. "I was out to dinner with a friend when I received the notice over my cell phone," he said. "I began clapping and thanking God." Noel said he always dreamed of being a professional tennis player but as time went on, his dream slipped away. "Now I feel my dream has finally come true. Sports in general have taught me to be proud of my accomplishments and that anything is possible."
Jenny Woyahn, originally from Waukesha Wis. and currently a resident of Palatine, Ill., will be representing the US for the second time in her career. In 2009, she was part of the USA Team for the 21st Summer Deaflympics in Taipei, Taiwan where she placed fifth in Mixed Doubles. Woyahn said she is thrilled to once again represent the US. "Representing the USA is a dream come true. I never thought I would have an opportunity to put USA on my back and play the sport I love," she said. "Tennis is my passion and it is quite amazing to do something so special for my country."
Both Noel and Woyahn have been playing tennis since they were young. Noel attributes his start to a gentleman from the neighborhood where he grew up. "He taught me to play and enrolled me in tournaments. He pointed out how much I had improved from one tournament to the next and this helped me build confidence," he said.
Woyahn says that "tennis is in my blood." Her father, a former college player, got her started at the age of 4 and she hasn’t stopped since. She too played at the college level for the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater where she was a two-time first-team WIAC All-Conference and a two-time National Qualifier. She currently is a Junior Director/Teaching Professional at the Midtown Athletic Club in Palatine.
Woyahn’s goal for the competition is to finish better than she did in 2009, but her ultimate goal is to medal. She also says she is looking forward to seeing her tennis friends from around the world. "I love the competition and am definitely looking forward to playing."
Noel is also looking forward to competing internationally. "I am looking forward to pushing myself to be the best I can be, and I’m excited about developing friendships with people from all over the world."
The USA Team’s Tennis Leader is Howard Gorrell from Dayton, Ohio. Gorrell has a long history with tennis, beginning when he was a young boy in Farmersville, Ohio where his mother drove him to the Middletown Tennis Club for lessons. During the summers he was a tennis counselor and then while attending Ohio University he played intramural tennis.
Gorrell actually participated in the World Games for the Deaf (later renamed to Deaflympics) in 1969 and 1973 as a javelin thrower. After serving as a Congressional Liaison on Capitol Hill, Gorrell was offered a position as Team Manager of the 1977 USA-WGD tennis team because of his ability to find and recruit talented players for the team. In this role, he believes he was able to help improve communication and foster relationships with European tennis leaders because of his own deafness. "The European tennis leaders were happy to meet me because they had challenges in communicating with previous USA coaches who were not deaf."
In 1978 Gorrell established the United States Deaf Tennis Association and sent the first USA team to the 1978 Dresse/Maere Cups in Paris (modeled after the Davis Cup for men and the Wrightman Cup for women). He continues to be involved with USA Deaf Tennis programs; he has participated in Deaflympics 10 times, has served as Technical Director for the Sport of Tennis International Committee of the Sports for the Deaf, and helped organize the first USA Deaf Tennis Open in 2010.
About 2013 Sofia Deaflympics
Organized since 1924 by the Comité International des Sports des Sourds, CISS (The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf), the first Summer Deaflympics were held in Paris. Winter Deaflympics were added in 1949. The Summer and Winter Deaflympics are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, IOC.
The Deaflympics are recognized by the International Olympic Committee and modeled after the Olympic Games. Unlike the Paralympics and Special Olympics, there are no rule modifications or special classifications in the Deaflympics. Visual cues, such as flashing lights, are the only adaptations made. Athletes with a hearing loss of 55 decibels or greater in their better ear are eligible to participate in international competition for the deaf.
The Summer Deaflympics are among the fastest growing sporting events and are held every four years. They are the longest running multi-sport event excluding the Olympics themselves. The first games, held in Paris in 1924, were also the first ever-international sporting event for athletes with a disability. Beginning as a small gathering of 148 athletes from nine European nations competing in the event originally known as "International Silent Games" in Paris, France, in 1924; the Deaflympics have grown into a global movement. The Deaflympic Winter Games were added in 1949.
Unlike Olympians, Paralympians and deaf tennis players from other countries, USA Tennis athletes are without financial aid from sporting organizations or sponsors. Lack of formal financial aid for these USA Deaf Tennis athletes represents significant challenges in performing their own fundraising to help defray costs for uniforms, traveling expenses, training camp, meals and lodging while training for the upcoming Games.