RIT hosting unique swimming event

A new competition has been designed for hearing-impaired athletes.

A new competition has been designed for hearing-impaired athletes.

For some swimmers, a swim cap, goggles and competition swimwear are not the only items that they need to race. With all of the pressures of an important meet, deaf athletes also have to manage working with an interpreter and keeping up with hand signals. During a special competition, however, they can leave all of those stresses behind them. 

From January 14-18, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will be hosting 100 athletes from around the world as they compete in the Deaf International Short Course Swimming Championships. Two students from RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf will be among the competitors at this inaugural event. 

"I'm extremely excited to be part of this championship," said RIT swimmer Scott Farrell to Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle Newspaper. "The environment will be a mini-concept of what it was like at Bulgaria for the Summer Deaf Olympics of 2013. I'm eager to get to know more about the swimmers from each country. I've met several so far."

One notable swimmer participating in the competition is former University of Arizona athlete Marcus Titus. He finished eighth in the 100-meter backstroke at the 2012 Olympic Trials and is a contender for the 2016 games. Titus has been an advocate for deaf swimmers, convincing the sport's governing body to allow hand signals for the hearing impaired. Before, deaf athletes had to watch their competitors to know when to step on the starting blocks. 

At the RIT competition, special lights have been installed in the pools lanes that will give swimmers visual cues when to go. As this is an international competition, sign language from different countries may have caused confusion. 

The competition is open to the public, and all proceeds benefit the RIT swim team.