THE BLOG

Deafness in Sport - Overcoming the Odds

18/03/2014 15:34 GMT | Updated 18/05/2014 10:59 BST

Derrick Coleman has been pushing back the boundaries his whole life.

Deaf since the age of three years old, Coleman has spent the last 20 years overcoming every single challenge which has threatened to dampen his dreams and thwart his ambition. The past few months have seen a lifetime's determination paid off, with substantial achievement and reward: when the Seattle Seahawks qualified for Super Bowl XLVIII, the 23-year-old became the first legally deaf player to appear in the NFL's showcase season finale.

Following the Seahawks' comprehensive victory over the Denver Broncos in that game - Seattle won 43-8 in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium - Coleman has earned a permanent place in NFL history, as the first legally deaf player to win a Super Bowl.

In terms of American sport - and global sport - not only making the grade in the NFL, but playing for a Super Bowl-winning franchise is just about as high an accolade as it gets. But while Coleman would rightfully have celebrated Seattle's success, and considered it his career high-point, he might also have reflected that his greatest achievement to date would have been getting to the NFL in the first place.

The world woke up to Coleman in a big way when he agreed to take part in a commercial for Duracell. Trust Your Power condensed his life story into an emotional and inspiring 60 seconds, charting journey from childhood to Super Bowl.

The advert went viral, not surprisingly, and the episode had a particularly poignant and moving conclusion. Coleman was contacted by Riley Kovalcik, a nine-year-old deaf girl, who wrote him a moving letter. Coleman replied, the dialogue played out on Twitter, and the Seahawks running back personally visited the Kovalcik household to deliver Super Bowl tickets for Riley, her twin sister Erin, also deaf, and the rest of the family.

Coleman has helped to deliver huge awareness for hearing-impaired and deaf athletes. He's a headline example as a current NFL star, but there are countless other deaf men and women, thriving and succeeding in their chosen sport in spite of hearing difficulties.

Ben Cohen, a rugby union World Cup winner with England in 2003 - and more recently a star of Strictly Come Dancing - has 33% hearing loss in both ears. Another rugby union man, Bath's Matt Gilbert, is profoundly deaf. Snooker's Joe Swail has enjoyed a successful career despite severe hearing loss.

There is a thriving deaf sports community in the UK. It may come as a surprise to learn that Deaf Football has been long established; according to Great Britain deaf football there are 25 active deaf football clubs in the UK. Everton, Fulham, Sunderland, Manchester United and Derby, among others, all have teams who play in regular, competitive leagues. More can be learnt about British Deaf Football on their website, here.

Inspiration for those who are deaf and hearing impaired is everywhere. A case study provided by Hidden Hearing recounts the success story of gym owner and extreme athlete Mike Buss, whose life was changed forever after sustaining a hearing injury at the end of 1998 whilst serving with the army in Northern Ireland.

I was on a green patrol to Lisburn Barracks when, while waiting for some of the guys to get back, I was standing very close to the first of two car bombs that went off inside the barracks. It left me with tinnitus and heavily deaf in my left ear and quite bad in my right.

Everyday situations were difficult for Mike to cope with. Migraines would knock him out 'for days', he would have the TV on the highest possible volume, he felt isolated in social situations and environments, and would hide away; avoiding events out of sheer embarrassment.

Since regaining control of his hearing, Mike has grabbed every opportunity. His achievements are impressive. He ran the 2002 London Marathon, and has taken on some of the most demanding running challenges in the world - racing across the Sahara desert, the Canadian arctic, the fearsome Marathon des Sables. He has set 47 world records, including the fastest 100 miles on a treadmill, carrying a 40lb backpack, a 96-hour spinning marathon, and finishing 100 marathons in 100 days.

While he will never again lead a full-time life in the army, Mike has set up his own military-style fitness training business: BOOTCAMPfit in Swindon.

I've made a name for myself as being beyond impossible. Making what people think is impossible, possible, and inspiring thousands of people to get up and get fit. And this is now my life. I love to inspire and give people the confidence to conquer anything they want.