Overcoming deafness for competitive swimming success

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NEPA college athlete helps Team USA set national deaf swimming record

DALLAS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Life is all about overcoming obstacles which is something a NEPA college athlete found out at a very young age.

She lost most of her hearing when she was just five years old but it hasn’t stopped her from finding success as a competitive swimmer. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller shares her inspirational story.

The blare of a starting horn is a familiar sound for competitive swimmers but one that’s not as easily heard by 21-year-old Misericordia University senior Kaitlyn Weatherby.

“My right side is my better ear as compared to my left,” Ms. Weatherby said.

Despite losing 90 percent of her hearing in one ear and more than half in the other, Ms. Weatherby has not let her hearing deficit be an insurmountable obstacle. She wears hearing aids and is proficient at lip-reading.

“My mom was always like you have this. It is what it is. You’re going to do like… that’s your normal and you’re going to get around it and you’re going to find a way to do it,” Ms. Weatherby said.

The Sewell, New Jersey native proved that by competing on Team USA this past August at the 5th World Deaf Swimming Championships in Brazil. Although her team finished fourth in the four-by-100 relay, it broke a U.S. deaf record for fastest time.

“Our coach was like ‘Yeah, I know you’re kind of bummed about fourth but you did this really cool thing’ so then we all got really excited,” Ms. Weatherby said.

Back at Misericordia, Ms. Weatherby is a swim team captain under the watchful eye of head coach Alexander Taylor.

“The first time I met Kaitlyn I had no idea,” he said while discussing the hearing deficit. “And any given day you could come in here at practice and you would have no idea.”

In any given week, Ms. Weatherby hits the pool between 14 and 18 hours. She shared one of her secrets to overcoming her hearing deficit. During team swim practices, she’ll typically pick the middle lanes so that her coach is never too far out of eyesight or earshot.

Coach Taylor said, “She’s a hard-working athlete. It’s really all that it is. Take an athlete that’s coachable and put her in the pool and it’s what she does.”

An athlete who does no allowing deafness to define her.

“There should be no reason for something as simple as your hearing loss to prevent you from doing something that you could potentially love,” said Ms. Weatherby who is a psychology major in the pre-doctor of physical therapy program at Misericordia University.

She plans a career in helping others with disabilities.

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