The world’s best athletes with hearing impairments from around the world will descend upon the Festa da Uva Main Pavilion for the opening ceremony of the 24th Deaflympics, in the southern city of Caxias do Sol, Brazil on Sunday.

Just as it is with the Olympics, the Deaflympics is organised once every four years. It’s a celebration and the most prestigious multi-sports event meant only for deaf athletes.

This year, the event from May 1 to 15 will have 209 events across 17 sports. The Games were originally scheduled to take place in December last year, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

India have sent their largest contingent for the Games this time, with 65 athletes competing across 11 disciplines, as per Sports Authority of India.

What’s the background to Deaflympics?

The Olympic Games are essentially an open event meant for athletes who make the qualification cut. The Paralympics are for athletes with a range of physical disabilities, visual and intellectual impairments.

The Deaflympics meanwhile are meant only for athletes who are deaf. Therefore, unlike the Paralympics where each event has different classifications based on disabilities – for example, there were eight different men’s and five different women’s javelin throw events – Deaflympics will have just one winner per discipline.

While the Olympics and Paralympics are organised by the International Olympic Committee, the Deaflympics, which were called the International Silent Games at the first edition Paris 1924, are organised by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf – which is IOC affiliated. It was also called the World Games for the Deaf and the current name of Deaflympics came into place in 2001.

However, the Deaflympics have a specific distinction compared to all the other IOC mega events, in that the Games are “organised and run exclusively by members of the community they serve,” according to the Deaflympics website.

“Only deaf people are eligible to serve on the ICSD board and executive bodies.”

Incidentally, the Deaflympics were the first ever multi-sports event organised for athletes with disabilities, with the first edition taking place in Paris in 1924. The Paralympics meanwhile first took place in 1960, in Rome.

Organising committees are also required to provide a team of qualified interpreters who are assigned to each sports team.

Read more about the history of Deaflympics here

Who are eligible?

According to the Deaflympics website, a ‘deaf’ athlete is defined as a person with a “hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in the better ear (3 tone frequency average of 500, 1000 and 2000 Hertz).”

Hearing aids, or any other device of implant that improves or supports hearing is not allowed to be used during competitions.

Given the hearing impairments, starting gunshots for events such as athletics and swimming races would not be used. Instead, a specially designed board for starting lights is placed at the starting block for each competitor in athletics, with different lights signalling the calls for ‘on your mark,’ ‘set,’ and ‘go.’

Similarly, in swimming, strobe lights are placed at the starting block which help signal the start of a race.

Additionally, audiences are reminded to wave rather than clap in order to support athletes.

Has there been crossover between Olympics and Deaflympics?

There have been several athletes who have excelled at the Deaflympics, and gone on to win Olympic medals as well.

Swimmer Terrence Parkin of South Africa, the most successful Deaflympic athlete, won 29 gold, 3 silver and one bronze medal in swimming events. He also won a bronze medal in cycling at the Deaflympics, making it a total of 34 medals across five editions.

He competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke event in Sydney.

Swimmer Jeffrey Float won 11 Deaflympic gold medals, and at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, became the first legally deaf American to win gold as a part of the 4x200m freestyle team – which set the then world record.

Legendary Italian wrestler Ignazio Fabra was the first person to compete at both the Olympics and Deaflympics. In the latter, he won two gold, two silver and a bronze medal across three editions. In the Olympics, he won a silver medal each at Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956. He also competed at Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964, finishing fifth and fourth respectively. He later coached Giuseppe Bognanni, who won bronze at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Meanwhile, Indian golfer Diksha Dagar won silver at the 2017 Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey, and later competed at the Tokyo Olympics.

What’s India’s record like?

The upcoming edition will be the 14th time India has sent a team to compete at the Deaflympics, since its first appearance at the 1965 Washington DC Games.

For versatile athlete Rajeev Bagga, sound was no barrier: The story of ‘Deaflympian of the Century’

The 46-member Indian contingent returned from the 2017 edition with five medals – a gold, a silver and three bronze. Wrestler Virender Singh, who was competing in his fourth consecutive edition, won gold in the 74 kg freestyle event – successfully defending his title from the 2013 edition. He also won gold in 2005 at the event in Melbourne, and bronze in 2009.

Meanwhile, the most decorated Deaflympian from India is badminton player Rajeev Bagga. From the Christchurch Games in 1989 to Sofia 2013 – seven editions – he won 14 gold medals, one silver and one bronze.

A list of India’s past participants and medal winners is available on the All India Sports Council of the Deaf website.

Who is participating from India this time?

India’s record contingent features athletes across Athletics, Badminton, Judo, Golf, Karate, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis, Table Tennis, Taekwondo and Wrestling.

List of Indian participants at Deaflympics

S.N Name Discipline
1 Manikandan Kamaraj Athletics
2 Balram Athletics
3 Suthan Rajendran Athletics
4 Sameeha Barvin Mujib Athletics
5 Priyanka Kumari Athletics
6 Abhinav Sharma Badminton
7 Rohit Bhaker Badminton
8 Hritik Anand Badminton
9 Mahesh Badminton
10 Jerlin Anika Jayaratchagan Badminton
11 Shreya Singla Badminton
12 Aaditya Yadav Badminton
13 Gauranshi Sharma Badminton
14 Yogesh Dagar Golf
15 Diksha Dagar Golf
16 Rakesh Singh Judo
17 Vishal Khajuria Judo
18 Sumit Soni Judo
19 Aasif Khan Judo
20 Nirchara  Judo
21 Sakshi Haridas Bansode Judo
22 Vaishnavi Bala More Judo
23 Rakhshinda Mehak Judo
24 Vikas Solanki Karate
25 Aditya Sijaria Karate
26 Dhanush Srikanth Shooting
27 Shourya Saini Shooting
28 Abhinav Deshwal Shooting
29 Shubham Vashist Shooting
30 Priyesha Sharadrao Deshmukh Shooting
31 Natasha Joshi Shooting
32 Pranjali Prashant Dhumal Shooting
33 Monika Verma Shooting
34 Abhishek Kumar Shooting
35 Vedika Sharma Shooting
36 Tahir Rahimkhan Mullani Swimming
37 Vaibhav Rajoria Swimming
38 Aman Sharma Swimming
39 Aditi Avinash Nilangekar Swimming
40 Subiya Rahimkhan Mullani  Swimming
41 Sneha Ramu Swimming
42 Swaran Das Table Tennis
43 Srijit Mazumder Table Tennis
44 Priom Chakraborty Table Tennis
45 Ullas Naik Table Tennis
46 Shiney Anthony Gomes Table Tennis
47 Rakhi Table Tennis
48 Abhisha Banerjee Table Tennis
49 Archana Pandey Table Tennis
50 Abhinandan Goswami Taekwondo
51 Nidhi Sulakhe Taekwondo
52 Prithvi Sekhar Tennis
53 Dhananjay Dubey Tennis
54 Jafreen Shaik Tennis
55 Bhavani Kedia Tennis
56 Vijay Kumar Wrestling
57 Ajay Kumar Wrestling
58 Krishan Kumar Yadav Wrestling
59 Virender Wrestling
60 Amit  Wrestling
61 Sumit Dahiya Wrestling
62 Shubham Babaso Patil Wrestling
63 Raj Verma Wrestling
64 Ankit Wrestling
65 Kuldeep Sharma Wrestling
As provided by Sports Authority of India