Deaf speedskater from Mesquite has Winter Olympic dreams

May 02, 2011

Deaf speedskater from Mesquite has Winter Olympic dreams

May 02, 2011 (The Dallas Morning News – McClatchy-Tribune Information
Services via COMTEX) — Michael Hubbs can’t hear his skates as they slice
through the ice. He can’t hear his coaches yelling from the sidelines.

Instead, the Mesquite speedskater listens to his heart, which is telling him
that he’s in the right place at the right time.

Hubbs, who is deaf, is making up for lost time. His childhood dream of being
an Olympic skater was snuffed out when he was a teen. But Hubbs, 28, has
moved to Utah, where he’s training on the ice. His eyes are set on the 2014
Winter Olympics in Russia.

He’s back in North Texas taking a break, speaking at schools and telling
people about his Olympic dreams. There’s no guarantee that he’ll make it.
Compared with other skaters, he’s older and inexperienced. But Hubbs isn’t
paying attention to naysayers.

The speedskater wants to show people, regardless of whether they can or
can’t hear, that they should never give up on their dreams.

“You can do anything,” he said.

‘I could make it, too’ Growing up, Hubbs was an inline skater. He wanted to
move to Colorado and pursue an Olympic skating career, but he said his
father wouldn’t let him.

Instead, Hubbs was sent to the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin. There,
he joined the only sport the school offered that he liked: swimming.

He continued to swim at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where he
graduated in 2009.

But Hubbs knew that swimming wasn’t his passion.

So last year, after a 10-year break, he returned to inline skating.

As he skated, he thought about inline skaters who transitioned to the ice
and earned Olympic medals, such as Jordan Malone of Denton, who competed
last year in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Derek Parra, who medaled in
the 2002 Olympics.

“I knew I could make it, too,” Hubbs said. “If they can, I can.” So, last
fall, he moved to Utah.

He trains at the Utah Olympic Oval, where Parra is one of his coaches.

Hubbs trains up to eight hours a day. Skating on ice is trickier than inline
skating but more fun, Hubbs said. One of his coaches brings a laptop to the
ice to communicate. Sometimes, Hubbs brings an interpreter.

Joe Ballent, a fellow speedskater training in Utah, said Hubbs is already at
the oval when he arrives in the morning. When he leaves for the day, Hubbs
is still there.

“Michael has a ferocious work ethic,” Ballent said. “He’s one of the most
intense and energetic [people] I’ve ever met. His enthusiasm is contagious.
… There’s almost like a social inhibition that’s knocked down with him.
He’s not afraid to break the ice and come up and talk.” Because of his age,
Hubbs is considered an “old fogy” in speedskating, said Anthony Barthell,
one of his coaches. But Barthell is impressed with Hubbs’ work ethic.

“Most of these kids start at the age of 12 or younger,” Barthell said. “He
still has some work to do, just finding himself, finding balance. But in the
little time he’s been around, he’s doing fairly well.” An Olympic appearance
isn’t guaranteed, Barthell said.

“He could possibly surprise people over the next couple of years,” he said.
“If he gets a great understanding quickly, then it’s possible he could make
an Olympics.” ‘One chance’ Over coffee in Mesquite, Hubbs gestured
aggressively, his eyes filled with energy. While he can’t hear, he can talk.
If he can’t get his point across, he scribbles words in a notebook.

Hubbs, who was born deaf, said he’s glad that he can’t hear. It’s easier to
fall asleep, he says. He also enjoys communicating through sign language. He
says it’s beautiful to watch signers as their arms and hands float through
the air.

“It’s art,” Hubbs said.

While in town, he’s met with deaf students, and he has a message for them:
Believe in yourself. Say “I can make it.” His Facebook postings reflect that
upbeat spirit.

Like this: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their
dreams.” And this: “ONE life, ONE chance, YOUR choice. :)” To see more of
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