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My deafness didn't stop me becoming an Olympic Weightlifter

There aren’t many people, hearing or deaf, who can safely lift 230kg. For Jacob Finnigan (20), it’s all in a day’s work!

“Representing Great Britain in international competitions feels pretty amazing,” says Jacob, who has Pendred syndrome and is profoundly deaf. “Being part of Team GB makes me proud.”

However, Jacob hasn’t always felt so confident. “I’m grateful for my cochlear implants, but at school I didn’t always feel like I fitted in,” he explains. “It took me years to feel comfortable in my disability, and I’m still on that journey.”

Having tried football, judo and CrossFit, it wasn’t until Jacob was 14 that he discovered Olympic Weightlifting. “I seemed to have a natural talent for the sport,” he remembers. “I never looked back!”

Jacob finds Olympic Weightlifting naturally deaf-friendly. “I don’t need any adaptations,” he explains. “My implants sometimes fall out during training and competitions, but that’s just something I accept and work with.

“To be a good weightlifter you need strength, passion, determination and composure. I think my deafness gives me an advantage. Growing up with a disability gave me additional obstacles to overcome, ultimately pushing me to be a stronger individual. As an athlete, you need to be as strong mentally as you are physically.

“My advice to other deaf young people would be to never let anyone else determine your goals or make you feel like someone you’re not. You may be presented with challenges that others don’t have, but this will give you strength, resilience and determination.

“If you’re interested in trying Olympic Weightlifting, head to a weightlifting or CrossFit gym and try a weightlifting session for yourself. If you’re nervous, you could use email or social media to contact the coach beforehand and explain your communication needs. Starting a new gym can be scary for anyone. Remember, everyone was a beginner once!”

In the future, Jacob hopes to compete in the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. “Olympic Weightlifting is challenging, but that’s what makes the successes so exciting!”

Summer 2023 Families magazine