Lukas Käfer from Austria was born deaf and implanted with a cochlear implant as a child. But his hearing loss has not stopped him from pursuing his athletic goals and dreams. In today’s blog he talks about his hearing journey as well as his athletic ambitions.
My name is Lukas and I am from a small town in Lower Austria. I am trained carpenter and work as a wood technician now. My hobbies include being outdoors enjoying nature, meeting friends, going to the cinema and watching soccer. But my favorite hobby is sports: Skiing and athletics are my passion.
Growing Up With A Cochlear Implant
I was born deaf, the reason for my hearing loss is unknown. I was diagnosed with hearing loss when I was about one year old. At first, the doctors thought that I would be able to use hearing aids. Unfortunately this was not the case because I had very little residual hearing at high-frequencies. After many appointments with specialists in both Germany and Austria, I was finally implanted with a cochlear implant at the age of five.
My parents chose a MED-EL implant back then because they were impressed by the company and its philosophy. Today I am still very happy with their decision, because I feel well supported by MED-EL. After the surgery I had a lot of appointments at the clinic and with a speech therapist until I could make sense of the new hearing sensations with my CI. Today I cannot imagine life without it.
At school, I was well accepted by my classmates and had many friends. Sometimes other children wanted to know what the device on my ear was, but that was never a big deal for me. But when I really had an issue with my CI and could not hear, that was a little tragedy for me.
Biggest Passion: Sports
I was born into a very active family, and I discovered my passion for sports early on in life. At the age of three and a half I stood on skis for the first time and later successfully participated in children’s ski races. In summer I used to run, taking part in cross-country running competitions and track and field events.
When I was 13 I first heard about the ÖGSV, the Austrian Deaf Sports Association, and after proving my talent I became a member. Since then I have participated in many track and field competitions and was national champion several times in a few categories: 100 meters, 200 meters and 600 meters sprints as well as long jump and high jump. I was especially happy to set several Austrian records. My height of 1.96 meters (6 ft 4) is definitely an advantage!
Since track and field is mainly a summer sport, I can also do skiing, my second passion, and compete in ski races in winter. I really enjoy it, even though it means I can’t compete in indoor track and field competitions. In the Deaf World Championships I won the bronze medal in Downhill, and I was Austrian Youth Champion in Super G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and Combined. In recent years I was also happy to win the runner-up title in Giant Slalom, Super G and Combined.
In order to be successful in different disciplines in summer and winter, a precise training schedule is essential. Especially because ideally my weight should fit the different requirements of the different types of sports. But no matter if training on the slope or on the track, my cochlear implant is always with me. For me there is not much to worry about and, thanks to my SONNET audio processor, sweat is not an issue either.
Competitions In Both Worlds
I participate in competitions in “both worlds” if you like, because I take part in races for the deaf as well as the ones for hearing athletes. I started to enjoy participating in competitions when I was just a small child. I like to compare myself with others, want to know how far the training can take me, and I like to improve my abilities.
When I participate in races for the deaf, I need to take my cochlear implant off – that is a basic requirement. Therefore I have to focus on other signals because I cannot hear. At competitions for the hearing I use my CI. That, of course, has advantages for me because I am used to wearing my processor and being able to hear during training.
However, I can’t decide which type of competition I prefer, every single one is a challenge! I participate in World and European Championships and Olympic Games for the Deaf, that would not be possible for me with the hearing skiers because then I’d have to compete with the likes of Marcel Hirscher! But I do join the hearing athletes for FIS races and participate in track and field competitions for the hearing.
Advice And Wishes For The Future
I think it is very important to set yourself goals. Not only when it comes to competitions, but it is also when doing sports for fun or enjoying the outdoors. In my experience it is easier when you have a training schedule and when you have other people training with you. Thanks to my CI I don’t have any limitations when it comes to sport – almost everything is possible!
In December the Deaflympics, the Olympic Games for the deaf, take place in Santa Caterina, Italy. My goal is to win a medal for Austria again. Apart from that I hope for good health for my family and me – my life is good the way it is!
Thanks, Lukas, and good luck at the Deaflympics in Italy!
Interested in more guest articles from athletic users? Read how Maria from Kazakhstan climbs new heights as a climber and how Jodie from the UK became a successful rugby player.
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