Created on Friday, 16 February 2007 05:31
Last Updated on Friday, 16 February 2007 05:49
By Erin Post
Kelley Duran came back from the Deaflympics in Utah with a fistful of medals and enough fleece blankets to stay cozy and warm this winter.
The Fayston resident and veteran Deaflympian took a leave of absence from her master's degree program in Washington, D.C., this year to train for and compete in the 16th annual games, held from February 1 to 10 in Salt Lake City.
This wasn't her first time competing; in 2003, she won silver and bronze medals in alpine ski events at the Deaflympics in Sweden.
This time around, she came back with a few more.
Duran earned three medals, one silver and two bronze. She placed second in the Downhill, and raced to third-place finishes in the Giant Slalom and the Combined.
She also earned a fleece blanket--each emblazoned with the Deaflympics logo--for every medal she took home.
Just one-tenth of a second separated her from another bronze medal, and another fleece blanket, in the Super-G.
Although she never got to stand at the top of the podium, Duran said it's the experience that counts, and she's satisfied with her performance.
"I'm very happy," she said. "I had a good time."
And she did it all on skis she stepped into for the first time in Utah.
When she arrived in Salt Lake City, she found out her skis--purchased specifically for the games--did not meet official length requirements. At some point Deaflympics officials changed the standards by which they judge acceptable length, Duran said, and somehow word didn't trickle down to all of the U.S. competitors.
She took it all in stride, however. She borrowed two pairs of skis, one from a teammate and another from a friend, adjusted the bindings and got ready for her events.
"I didn't train on them," she said. "I just had to race."
Another highlight was when she recited in International Sign Language the Olympic oath at the ceremony's opening games.
With her image projected onto a huge screen behind her, she signed the oath to thousands of athletes and spectators in a packed stadium.
"There were lights flashing and the whole thing," she said.
Webcasts allowed her family at home to keep tabs on her progress; they watched the medals ceremonies and even got a special hello.
"My mom asked me to say 'Hi Mom,'" Duran laughed.
At 24 years old, Duran isn't sure yet if another Deaflympics is in her future.
The next winter games are slated for 2011 in Slovakia, a country she might like to visit. But with school and career choices looming, a lot depends on where life takes her in the next few years.
Duran said many athletes from other countries get a stipend for competing, and bonuses for any medals they win.
This helps to offset the cost of training, equipment, and the trip itself.
Although the United States currently does not provide that kind of support to Deaflympians, Duran said she might talk to officials to see what she can do.
It's a challenge for athletes to hold down a job or go to school, and make time for training as well as pay for equipment, which can run into the thousands of dollars.
But the time and money are worth the experience; Duran said many competitors have become friends over the years. It's fun to catch up and spend a week together.
"I get really sad when I leave because I have to say goodbye," she said.
With the games behind her, Duran plans to resume classes at Gallaudet University in the fall, where she is earning her master's degree in linguistics.