12th World Games for the Deaf
Malmo, Sweden, 1973
The 12th World Games for The Deaf, (known as the Deaf Olympics), were held this year in Malmo, Sweden. Two outstanding cyclists
represented the United States in the bicycle events; Richard Baraona of Daly City, California and Bobby Skedsmo of Cerritos, California.
Bobby is an intense young man, 29 years old, lean, dark haired, with a carefully trimmed mustache and sparkling hazel eyes that danced excitedly during our interview. He has been a deaf mute since birth, but I felt like the handicapped one. I had to shut up for at least 45 minutes. (I actually made it for more than an hour.) I had typed many questions on yellow-lined paper and we passed them back and forth at his draftsman's desk during his lunch hour. Each time he wrote an answer, he methodically squared the loose papers before he wrote.
"It was cold and windy," Bobby wrote when I asked the details of the 1000 meter sprint. "The Italian team gave me some baby oil which I rubbed on my thighs and legs."
Can you talk sign language to the men from other countries? I had typed.
"Yes, it's very similar and we made our "home made" sign language."
How does European training differ from yours?
"Italy has a permanent coach. Their coaching is better."
What is the usual age of Olympic bikers?
"Youngest was 18, oldest 39."
Were you nervous before the race?
"I didn't have any butterflies in my stomach or any kind of nervousness except I was very eager to start off. I never had any tension or nervousness since I was at school where I played footbalo. I have trained myself to keep control of myself in sports; emotionally, mentally, and physically."
I realized here was a young man who had not only overcome his physical handicap, but who was in complete control of himself and his body at all times. He was at ease and truly at peace with the world. I was the nervous one.
Now, back to the race. "What were you thinking about?" I wrote.
"I had that hunger for a medal for America and for what I have practiced for a long time. That I must win to make my long training all worthwhile. Several pairs of riders raced before it was my turn. Then it was just me and the Olympic champion from Belgium: L. Uzeel."
In the 1000 meter sprint, (six tenths of a mile), both cyclists start out as slowly as possible. Like tight rope walkers they balance carefully never to touch a foot to the roadway. each wants the other to go ahead, and thus have the advantage of a windbreak.
We went from 9 to 10 mph for the first 800 meters. Sometimes we held our bicycles absolutely still for 30 seconds or more. Finally I saw the man with the flag warning us it was the last 200 meters. I kicked off and was two bike lengths ahead until almost thefinish. then my leg muscle tightened. I must have trained too long during the days just before the race, (75 miles a day until the day before). Uzeel whizzed by me like lightning. He won. His time for the 200 meters was 15.3 seconds. In the 1969 Olympics, I had made 11.8 seconds, but there was less wind that day. This was not my day! I was eliminated. Uzeel won first place. Richard Baraona, (USA), surprised us by coming in 7th place in the Sprint. Endurance is his long suit, as he proved in the 100 km Cross Country Race."
Although Skedsmo lost this event, the United States won the Championship at the 1973 Olympics. 125 American athletes brought in a total of 82 medals. Russia was second with 48, Italy third with 21.
Our cyclists won two silver medals. These were for 2nd place in the 100 km Cross Country Race and 2nd place in the 35 km Time Trial Race. In the regular, (hearing), Olympics, the best our cyclists could do against the highly trained European men was 15th in the 100 km Cross Country and 12th in the 1000 meter sprint. The time in the regular Olympics was better.
Regular Olympics - 15th place -- 2 hours, 17 minutes, 6 seconds.
Deaf Olympics -- 2nd place -- 2 hours, 37 minutes, 19 seconds.
To get in shape for this, Bobby trains three times a week with the Peugeot Paramount Cycle Club, (all hearing members). He usually rides over a hundred miles a week.
His high school science teacher told me, "Bobby was an outgoing, inquisitive boy with an artistic temperament. He was interested in art, sculpture, and was an outstanding student, and an avid sportsman. We didn't have baseball then, but he was active in football and a star in basketball and track. He went on from here to Gallaudet College for the Deaf in Wasington, D.C., but he couldn't major in drafting there, so he left and went to a trade school here in Los Angeles.
"He has worked here at the Division of Highways, (in Los Angeles), since 1966," Mr. Weiser, his supervisor told me. "He's an above average employee and now holds a responsible position as a delineator, (draftsman)."
I was surprised to learn that besides his bike training, Bobby finds time for skiing, sailing, and hiking, too. I asked him if his deafness wasn't a hazard when he trained on the busy streets.
"Nothing is a problem as a deaf person," this remarkable young man wrote back quickly. "All I need to do is to see and to pedal. I can usually "hear", (feel), blow-outs in a race because of the high pressure. All I need to know is when to start and finish the race. There is a sign that tells us how many laps are left. What do I need hearing for in the race?"
Richard Baraona must feel the same way. He almost made it at the trials for the regular Olympics. After his performance in Sweden, he is rated the third best deaf cyclist in the world.
Both these young men represented their country well in the 100 km Cross Country Road Race. It was sunny and cool, about 70 degrees, five miles from the heart of Malmo, Sweden. They covered a 62 mile course, some unpaved, all in less than two hours, 39 minutes. That's an average of 23 mph. (That's fast, folks, fast.)
Nearing the finish line they were divided into three packs: Piccoli, Italy), Baraona, (USA), and Dechamps, (Belgium), were the first across with a time of 2 hours, 37 minutes, 19 seconds. Richard got a silver medal for second place. Bobby was seventh, one of the second pack timed at 2 hours, 38 minutes, 32 seconds.
In the 35 km Time Trial Race, Richard Baraona braved the rain to bring the United States it's second sliver medal for cycling. Second only to England's M. Johnson. Baraona's total time was 58.27.1 to Johnson's 56.28.9.
Although both silver medals went to Baraona, Bobby Skedsmo deserves a medal of his own. If he had not shared the funds he raised with Baraona, the Unites States would not have won any medals in cycling at all. Baraona had been unable to raise but a few of the $2000 necessary for each athlete. This meant Bobby had to spend his own money to include a tour of some of the other European countries, including a visit to Skedsmo, Norway where his people originated.
Bobby hasn't decided whether to accept the job of coach for the 1977 Olympics or not. He will, however, lecture at several deaf schools to get more good young athletes interested in training for the Olympics.
(Note: Anyone wishing to conytribute, (tax deductable), to the next Deaf Olympics can send any amount to:
Art Kruger, Chairman, U.S.A. W.C.D. Committee
7530 Hampton Ave. #305
North Hollywood, CA 90046
by Ralph Cooper, 12-23-07