Vlad Schmidt of Seattle is a busy man. He spends his free time swimming, biking, and running as he trains for the IRONMAN Triathlon to be held this August in Quebec, Canada.
Schmidt, age 47, has been deaf for nearly his whole life. He was born with the ability to hear, but an childhood illness cost him his hearing in his right ear. By the age of 2, Schmidt was mostly deaf in his left ear as well.
However, Schmidt did not let his disability get in the way of his passion in athletics. Schmidt has been an athlete for most of his life; he swam for his college’s swim team and played volleyball for the German national volleyball team in the 1997 Deaf Olympics in Denmark.
While living in Germany, Schmidt watched the IRONMAN Europe race and felt inspired to do the same thing. He says: “When I was living in Germany I saw the IRONMAN Europe race taking place live and I was just so moved by it. I never forgot it and thought I always wanted to do something like that.”
The IRONMAN race is quite a challenge. It includes a 2.4 mile swim, an over a hundred mile bike ride, and a marathon.
Although the race is challenging , Schmidt is determined to show that it is possible: “I always think about my family, my life and what I’ve gone through and I want to show people that it can be done.”
As Schmidt trains for the triathlon, he has support from his family and community keeping him encouraged. His friends have set up a Go Fund Me page to help him with the cost of the triathlon.
Melissa Greenlee, a friend, sees Schmidt as a role model for the community and other deaf people, “He’s a huge inspiration in our community because not only is he deaf, but he inspires us to set goals for ourselves. So often we are told that we can’t. Whether it’s playing a musical instrument or joining a dance team or cycling team- we can’t because we’re deaf. He’s very critical and important for our youth to be watching. So they can see the possibilities.”
Schmidt views athletics as a way to reach out to other deaf people and show them what they can accomplish. “It’s really helping me connect to a better world and I want to be able to show other deaf people that can be athletes just like I can. They can compete on a world stage just like I can.”