Oskar Wetzell First Deaf Athlete at the Olympics Games


The Olympic Games are the greatest sporting event in the world, with thousands of athletes participating and millions of followers worldwide. Any elite athlete dreams of ever participating in the Olympics and, of course, of winning a precious medal. The first Deaf person in history to participate in an Olympic Games was Oskar Wetzell, in 1908.

Oskar Wetzell (photo: Kuurojen Museo / Atelier Universal Carl Klein)

Multi-talented Finnish

Oskar was born in 1888 in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, and became deaf at the age of two. His interest in the sport began in childhood and, at the age of 15, he joined the Helsinki Swimming Club. He specialized in springboard, although he also jumped from a 10-meter platform and even jumped from high diving (more than 10 meters).

In addition to growing up as an excellent diver, Oskar became interested in stage magic at the age of 20, performing for more than ten years as a magician in Finnish clubs. His profession was as a bookbinder at a Helsinki printing house.

During his 20-year career, he won more than 70 prizes.

Finnish Olympic Champion

At only 19 years of age, he participated in his first Summer Olympics in London in 1908, where he competed in the 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform events. In the platform, he did not qualify because it was not his speciality and he was still starting, but he reached the semifinals in springboard. He tried again at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, where he participated in the 3-meter springboard, 10-meter platform and high diving (more than 10 meters).

Oskar did not qualify for a medal but has the honour of being the first Deaf person in the world to participate in the Olympic Games. In addition, he won eight diver jump championships in Finland: five in the springboard and three in the platform, so he was one of the best divers in his country.

Oskar Wetzell bottom right (photo: Kuurojen Museo)

He died at the early age of 40 of stomach cancer, but his great achievements and contributions have already left their stamp in the history of Finnish sport and particularly for the Deaf Finnish Community. Since then, more than 15 Deaf athletes have passed through the Olympic Games... but that's another story.


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