Deaf swimmer’s race against time to fund his dream trip to world championships

Deaf swimmer, Oliver Kenny, 17, who aims to compete at the world championships. Picture: DENISE BRAD

Deaf swimmer, Oliver Kenny, 17, who aims to compete at the world championships. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

A deaf teenage swimmer's world championship dream is in danger of being dashed - because he is not eligible for funding.

Oliver Kenny, 17, has been selected for the deaf world championships in San Antonio, Texas, in August.

But he could be forced to stay at home because UK Sport's funding excludes elite deaf sports - focusing instead on the Olympics and Paralympics.

Now his family and West Norfolk Deaf Association are in a race against time to raise the £3,000 needed for the trip, competition and kit.

Oliver's mother Amanda, who is also manager of the association, said: 'We have supported Oliver as well as we can over the years. He has taken part in lots of competition across the country, and we paid for him to compete in Russia last year, so we are on our knees with funding.'

The association has started fundraising through its 100 club, and a wider appeal has now been issued for help.

Mrs Kenny said: 'As there is no funding for elite deaf sports, we need to raise around £2,600 just to fund Oliver's place in the team.

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'There will be further costs for racing, swimwear and travel and accommodation at Heathrow so we envisage the total cost of the trip will be around £3,000.

'While we have paid some of the money needed, we are well short of the total.'

She said competing in the US would mean the world to her son, who is profoundly deaf and uses sign language.

'He's now climbing in the world rankings,' she said.

'He's hoping eventually to get on the podium at the deaf Olympics in Turkey in 2017. The aim is for him to medal in an international deaf competition.'

The former Downham Market high school pupil started competitive swimming when he was nine. He was encouraged to start swimming to build his confidence.

He initially began to train with Downham Swimming Club, which later merged with Lynn to form the West Norfolk group.

He now swims for UEA City of Norwich since becoming a student at Easton College, where he is a weekly boarder.

Mrs Kenny, 55, who lives with husband Nigel, 51, an engineer, in Watlington, said: 'We believe that swimming has helped improve Oliver's confidence, introduced him to a healthy way of life and provided him with a wide circle of like-minded friends.

'We also believe his dedication to his gruelling training scheme, which includes early morning training starting at 5.30am four days a week, will stand him in good stead when he enters employment.'

The teenager trains in the pool for 20 hours a week and also does land-based training for around three hours a week.

He holds a number of British age group records for deaf swimmers and hopes to break the British youth record for 200m backstroke this year.

He has represented GB at three international events so far, most recently at the European Championships in Saransk, Russia where he qualified for the finals in five events and swam in four.

His best disciplines are the 200m backstroke and the 400m individual medley.

The teenager said: 'I love competing with other deaf swimmers from around the world. I have made friends from various countries, in particular Poland, Germany and USA. We communicate via Facebook to keep in touch. I am excited about the forthcoming world championships in the USA and training hard to prepare myself.'

? If you can help, email Mrs Kenny at amanda.kenny7@btinternet.com

? Are you fighting to achieve a sporting dream? Email chris.lakey@archant.co.uk