Peggy de Villiers
Peggy de Villiers lost her hearing when she was six months old, after contracting bacterial meningitis. But it was only after she turned 12 that the girl from Somerset West realised the impact of discrimination against hearing-impaired people.
“At the time, growing up with a hearing disability did not seem so challenging because, as a kid, you do not see the negatives and you do not compare. But as I got older I started learning the advantages that other kids had, both in the classroom and in the pool,” she says.
At that stage she discovered her love for swimming. She competed at school and club levels until she left for the United States to continue her studies (and swimming) at the University of West Florida in 2013. She quickly became one of the most accomplished swimmers in the history of their programme, where she became the first student athlete to achieve a NCAA Individual Qualifier ‘A’ cut time.
“I do not like to view myself as a hearing-impaired athlete because I do not feel like I have any setbacks as far as my physical and mental capabilities are concerned. But I do feel proud about what I have accomplished and hope to serve as inspiration for other hearing-impaired athletes. I want them to see my story and feel that it is something they can also achieve.”
De Villiers has been a member of the South Africa Deaflympics team since 2007 and holds the deaf world swimming record in the 50m backstroke. She competed in the 2013 Deaflympics in Bulgaria and won a silver medal in the 50m backstroke, a silver in the 100m butterfly, and a bronze in the 100m freestyle, building on her success at the 2009 Deaflympics in Taiwan, where she won the gold medal in the 50m backstroke, silver in the 100m freestyle, silver in the 100m backstroke and bronze in the 50m butterfly.
“Getting chosen to represent your country is always such an honour. I have been racing for South Africa for more than 10 years, but every time I am humble and proud of being afforded the opportunity to go and race.” — Iwan Pienaar
Photo: Emmele Photography