Lack of funding threatens U.S. Deaf Wrestling Team from competing for gold

The U.S. Deaf Wrestling Team says a lack of funding is threatening their trip to the Deaflympics in Brazil next month.

The team, which trains in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is short the $18,000 it needs to bring along their three coaches and one interpreter. Some of the wrestlers themselves are also short of the $4,500 it costs per athlete.

"The hearing Olympics, they have so many sponsorships. They’re paid to go. And here we are paying our own way fully," said 19-year-old wrestler Nicholas Barron of Faribault, Minnesota.

While the Deaflympics is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, the US Deaf Wrestling team receives no money from the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Each athlete is tasked with raising the money needed to make the trip to Brazil.

"We try and ask for sponsorships from the hearing Olympics but they see us as disabled," said team director David Nathanson. "We’ve asked the Paralympics to be a part of their funding and they say, no, you’re able-bodied."

The team received a loan from the USA Deaf Sports Federation to purchase airfare and hotel for the coaches and interpreter, but they’re expected to pay it back. They say they may have to cancel the tickets if donations don’t start to come in.

Barron says while there will be interpreters at the official events, much like spoken languages, each country has its own sign language. He says not having the team interpreter there puts them at a disadvantage in competition, and makes travel extremely difficult.

"I’m hoping we find a way," he said.

To donate to the US Deaf Wrestling team, click here.

The team trains at White Bear Lake High School, and two of the ten wrestlers are from Minnesota.