Matt Hopkins ’19 swims for Team USA in the 2017 Summer Deaflympics

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Alex Haylock

After qualifying for the competition exclusive to athletes with hearing disabilities, Hopkins travelled to Samsun, Turkey to compete with fellow swimmers from all over the world.

Junior Matt Hopkins has been deaf ever since he was born. But after he found a passion for swimming, he learned to overcome this obstacle and succeed at the sport—as well as other aspects of his life. His participation in the 2017 Summer Deaflympics was one of the high points of his journey.

The Deaflympics have been held every four years since 1924, with a different host city every competition. Athletes must meet the qualification times in order to compete for their nation.

“Once I made the times, I contacted the Deaflympics to let them know I wanted to go,” Hopkins said. “I only found out I made the times a couple months before I left, but after that I knew it was something I wanted to do.”

While abroad, with 97 countries participating in the competition, Hopkins was able to help Team USA place fifth in the 4x100m freestyle relay. Junior and teammate on the Malvern swimming team Louis Franzone said that Matt spoke highly of the experience upon his return to America.

“I know Matt really enjoyed the Deaflympics,” Franzone said. “His whole family went, and he talked about representing Team USA. It was just a great experience for him.”

Hopkins uses hearing aids to help him, but when he is underwater, Matt cannot wear them.

“At practices, a lot of times I’ll have to talk to a friend to understand what the coach said,” Hopkins said. “And then during meets, I can’t hear the beep that sets you off the block.”

Jay Schiller, Varsity Swimming and Water Polo Head Coach, has tried to find ways to make it easier for Matt to compete. One of them is an interesting technique that may actually give him an advantage over his opponents.

“When the start goes off, there is also a light, and light moves faster than sound,” Schiller said. “If he picks up that light, he could get a faster start than everybody else.”

Back from his overseas competition, Matt’s focus is now on the success of Malvern’s swim team. In particular, he eyes a championship with the team.

“Winning the Inter-Ac is definitely my goal for this season,” Hopkins said. “We are definitely talented enough to do it.”

Last season, The Haverford School won the league championship over Episcopal Academy, and beat Malvern in the semi-finals.

“It’s definitely not going to be easy, but we certainly have the talent,” Schiller said. “Matt is going to be a big part in our success this year.

With his disability, Matt has accomplished much in his swimming career. In addition to representing his country abroad, and competing with a successful Malvern swimming team, Matt is also a great teammate.

“Matt’s a really well-liked kid on the team,” Schiller said. “He is supremely confident, and has a great sense of humor, which, I think, really inspires his teammates.”