BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Western Washington University track and field athlete Thomas Guidon (Bothell) placed fourth in the men’s pole vault on Thursday, Aug. 1, at the 22nd Summer Deaflympics being held in Vasil Levski Stadium at Sofia, Bulgaria.
Representing the United States, Guidon cleared 14-5. He completed his collegiate eligibility in May, lettering four years for the Vikings in outdoor track and three seasons in indoor track.
Placing first at 15-4 was Dmitny Kochkarov of Russia. Taipei’s Chung-Yu Chen also cleared 15-4, but finished second on misses. Japan’s Kotaro Takehana was third at 15-1.
At WWU, Guidon had career bests of 14-9 outdoors and 14-1 1/4 indoors. In 2013, he tied for second at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships and placed third at the league indoor championships. Guidon, an education major at WWU, also competed in the 2009 Deaflympics held at Chinese Taipei.
The Deaflympics, previously called World Games for the Deaf and International Games for the Deaf, are an International Olympic Committee (IOC)-sanctioned event at which deaf athletes compete at an elite level. However, unlike the athletes in other IOC-sanctioned events (i.e., the Olympics, Paralympics and Special Olympics), the Deaflympians cannot be guided by sounds.
The Deaflympics, held every four years, 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.
Officially, the games were originally called the International Games for the Deaf from 1924 to 1965, but were sometimes referred to as the International Silent Games. From 1966 to 1999 they were called the World Games for the Deaf and occasionally referred to as the World Silent Games. From 2000, the games have been known by their current name.
To qualify for the games, athletes must have a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in their “better ear.” Hearing aids, cochlear implants and the like are not allowed to be used in competition, to place all athletes on the same level.
Other examples of ways the games vary from hearing competitions are the manner in which they are officiated. To address the issue of Deaflympians not being able to be guided by sounds, certain sports use alternative methods. For example, on the track, races are started by using a light, instead of a starter pistol. It is also customary for spectators not to cheer or clap, but rather to wave – usually with both hands.