Terence Parkin: Tireless Deaf Silver Olympic Swimmer


In 1908, for the first time a deaf person participated in an Olympic Games. It was the Finnish Oskar Wetzell, specialized in trampoline jumping. One of the best fencers in history was Hungarian Ildikó Újlaky-Rejtő, who won up to seven Olympic medals since 1960.

Many other people have competed in the world's most important sports games, here we will meet the South African Terence Parkin who won a silver medal in swimming.

El nadador sordo olímpico Terence Parking en los Juegos Olímpicos de 2004
Terence Parkin at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens (photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images Sport)


Terece was born in Zimbabwe on April 12, 1980, so at the time of publication this article is 39 years old. Although he was born deaf, his family did not know and confimed his deafness until he was 18 months old, after which they moved to Durban, South Africa. When he was still very young, he had a car accident that left a scar on his face but this ended up being an identity mark in swimming with his shaved head.

He started swimming at the age of 12 and surprisingly, although he loved water, was slower swimming than other children his age. However, when she was 13, she participated in Midmar Mile, the world's largest open water swimming event in South Africa, which draws thousands of swimmers from all over the world every year. He advanced through all the swimmers of his age and completed the competition.


At only 20 years of age he competed in his first Summer Olympic Games in Sydney (2000) in 200 meters breaststroke style with the clear idea of proving something:
I am going to the Olympics to represent South Africa, but it's so vitally important for me to go, to show that the deaf can do anything. They can't hear, they can see everything. I would like to show the world that there's opportunities for the deaf
The young Terence swam with all his strength and when he completed the 200 metres in 2 minutes 12 seconds and 50 hundredths, he looked up to see the scoreboard. He saw a 2 next to his name and thought it was his lane number, when he actually just won an Olympic silver medal, which he realized a few moments later.

It must be borne in mind that Terence could not hear the commenters on public address announcing the results and he communicated in sign language with his coach.

In 2000, Terence competed again in the Midmar Mile and this time won, seven years of his first participation when he was 13 years old. He again won this competition in 2002.

In the following video you can see it in an extended interview from 2017:

Passionate Sportsman and Committed

Terence competed again at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Although he returned without a medal, he has won more than 400 gold medals, 200 silver medals and 50 bronze medals in a variety of competitions, including the FINA World Aquatics Championships, the Commonweath Games, the Goodwill Games and the Pan-Pacific Swimming Championship.

He is the swimmer who has the record of most medals won in the Deaflympics (Olympic Games for deaf people), with 34 medals. In addition, he has set seven swimming records in this competition, all of them in 2009 in Taipei:
  • 200 m freestyle (1:53.12)
  • 1500 m freestyle (16:08.56)
  • 50 m breaststroke (29.36)
  • 100 m breaststroke (1:03.51)
  • 200 m breaststroke (2:16.32)
  • 200 m individual medley (2:06.24)
  • 400 m individual medley (4:29.56)
In 2017 Terence was nominated Ambassador of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, chaired by Princess Charlene of Monaco in Zimbabwe (Terence's home country) and who was also an Olympic swimmer. The Princess said of Terence before her nomination:
Terence is an incredible athlete who has shown dedication and passion for his sport, and has never let any obstacles stand in his way on his path to achieve great things.

El nadador sordo Terence Parkin Embajador de la Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation
Terence Parkin as Ambassador of the Princess Charlene Foundation of Monaco in 2017 (37 years old)

Terence has a very persuasive message for Deaf people who want to achieve sporting success:
Success is 90% attitude and 10% training…with the right attitude you can do anything. The worst disability is a bad attitude!


Terence Parkin is known as the "silent torpedo".

Terence currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with his wife and two children. He is a sports coach at the St. Vincent School for the Deaf.

Terence has also tried other sports. He has participated in triathlons and won several medals in cycling competitions, including gold at the World Cycling Championship for the Deaf in a 120 km race.

Terence Parkin (right) winning a cycling competition in 2018 in pairs, the Liberty 250 Cycling Road Race (photo: Team SA)

Almost 40 years old, he loves extreme challenges. One of the last has been in 2019, covering 1,120 km in 12 days for charity: 903 km cycling, 17 km swimming, 80 km running and finally a 120 km marathon for three days. By 2018 he had already overcome a similar challenge of 902 km also for charitable purposes.

Asked if he follows a specialised diet, he laughed, saying: "No, I just eat normally. Whatever my wife cooks, I’ll eat it".

Finally, the South African postal service launched a stamp of recognition in 2001:

Sello lanzado en 2001 por el servicio postal de Sudáfrica y dedicado al nadador sordo Terence Parkin


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