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|Ted Hart, former Deaflympian, discusses Olympic wrestling with wrestling enthusiast TC Lewis|
By TC Lewis & USA Wrestling
Ted Hart wearing Keep Olympic Wrestling shirt at Microsoft. TC Lewis photo.
Ted Hart has been totally deaf since an illness at age 13.
Despite a disability that might have discouraged him from athletic participation, Hart wrestled through high school and college. Hart competed at the 1989 U.S. World Games for the Deaf (now called the Deaflympics), taking fourth in Greco-Roman wrestling that year in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Avid wrestling supporter TC Lewis teamed up with Hart to get the message across that not only does wrestling belong in the Olympics, wrestling is a sport all about inclusion.
“People want to save Olympic wrestling. I want to save wrestling, period,” Lewis said. “I want wrestling to be inclusive, no matter race, creed, handicap or gender.”
Lewis asked Hart, who now works for Microsoft, to answer a few questions about being a deaf wrestler and his thoughts on the importance of Olympic wrestling.
“We who hear take a lot of things for granted,” Lewis said. “As an individual sport, wrestling is perfect. I want to make it even more accessible. I’m all about equal opportunity, especially for the handicapped.”
Lewis: Tell us a little about your experience in wrestling and what it’s meant to you.
Hart: I wrestled in high school and college, and competed in Greco-Roman in the Christchurch, New Zealand Deaf Olympics in 1989. The benefits I've gotten from wrestling are still with me even though I no longer compete. The focus, self-discipline, and perseverance necessary to compete in wrestling have helped me meet the inevitable challenges that everyone faces in life, as well as the additional ones encountered by a person with a disability.
Lewis: How did being deaf affect your participation in wrestling?
Hart: I found myself able to compete more effectively in wrestling than in sports such as football and basketball. A deaf wrestler can compete on nearly equal footing with a hearing one. During a match, the only thing I missed was hearing advice shouted by the coaches. During practices it was harder because I didn’t have anyone to interpret the coaches, so it was sometimes difficult to understand what they were trying to explain.
Lewis: How did you feel when you heard about wrestling being dropped from the Olympic “core sports”?
Hart: I was appalled. As we all know, wrestling was a core event of the original Greek Olympics, a core event in the rebirth of the Olympics in modern times, and will always embody the core elements of the Olympic ideal.
Lewis: Why do you feel it’s important to have wrestling in the Olympics?
Hart: With the possible exception of track and field with its jumping events, no sport more than wrestling exemplifies both literally and figuratively the Olympic motto of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" - faster, higher, stronger. Wrestling is an individual sport - there are no teammates to help during the competition. You don't win a medal by sitting on the bench. Your strengths, weaknesses, training, and determination make the difference between victory and defeat, out in the open for all the world to see.
Unlike in many individual sports where a competitor performs his or her activity without distraction, a wrestler competes not merely against his own limitations but puts his skills and courage on the line against an active and aggressive opponent, with each attempting to gain dominance over the other. This is competition on a personal level, and even more than racing against a clock or a tape, this drives the athlete to work harder in his physical and mental development, to push himself to his limits - and past them. Meeting this challenge pays enormous dividends in self-reliance, confidence, and the ability to overcome obstacles. As Dan Gable said, "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy."
Every second of a wrestling match is full of action, although this isn’t always apparent to the casual viewer. Subtle shifts and strategies are always at work to create an opening to explode through to score the throw, takedown, exposure, or pin. You win or lose not by subjective judging but by the objective criteria of who was more successful in direct physical conflict.
Indeed, this martial aspect of wrestling and its historic importance are cited on the Olympic.org web page discussing the ancient Olympics: "[Wrestling] was highly valued as a form of military exercise without weapons." The ancient Greeks would certainly not be pleased to lose an event that so eloquently captures the elemental core of human competition.