Deaf Lens – An interview with Chris Sinclair

Daniel: Hi Chris, are you well?

Chris: I’m good, and how are you?

Daniel: I’m good thank you.

Daniel: Thank you for your time to videocall with us to discuss Deaf Sports

Daniel: Chris, you are the Deaf Sports New Zealand President, and recently you went with the New Zealand Team to Australia for the Australian Deaf Games. Can you tell us about the New Zealand Team?

Chris: The New Zealand Team had 64 people involved. There were 58 athletes and 6 supporters/family members. They participated in, I think it was 11 different sports. It was really a big team, and we had players as young as 11 years old all the way to 74 years of age.

Daniel: 11 years old? Wow! That is young!

Chris: Yes, 11! Their mother came along with them. They played Touch Football, and Netball. The 74-year-old person played Lawn Bowls. In between we had athletes participating in Futsal, Netball, Rugby 7s, Surfing…

Daniel: Surfing? Interesting

Chris: Yeah! One person decided to give it a go! They thought it was worth it, and more Deaf people should get involved. So that is giving us good opportunities for 2026.

Daniel: Does that mean that the next Australian Deaf Games will be held in 2026?

Chris: Yes

Daniel: Where?

Chris: In July 2026 on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane.

Daniel: Winter? In July?

Chris: Yeah, but it could be good for us because it would be like our summer, because their winter is like 23 to 25 degrees. It could be better for us. At the Australian Deaf Games just gone past, the temperature was like 35 degrees, 41 degrees. That was really challenging for us, but definitely worth it.

Daniel: Were there any other countries involved at the Australian Deaf Games? Or was it only New Zealand that were invited?

Chris: The original plan was to have 4 other countries involved including, Samoa, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu. Oh, and Fiji, so that is 5 other countries. But unfortunately, as the dates got closer, there were financial difficulties, and things were not working out, so in the end only Fiji managed to go to the Australian Deaf Games with the support of Deaf Sports Australia for their accommodation etc, so they were able to come. So eventually there were the Australian States, Fiji, and New Zealand.

Chris: The plan going forward is to grow and have more teams involved.

Daniel: So, does that mean in the future we can expect to see New Zealand, with the Australian States, and some Pacific Island countries all coming together in one place to compete against one another?

Chris: Yes, that is our vision for the Oceania Deaf Games. Because at the moment we have the Australian Deaf Games which is for the Australian States such as New South Wales, Queensland, but New Zealand does get invited, but people have said that they want to see New Zealand vs Australia and other countries like Fiji. So, the goal is to set up the Oceania Deaf Games for that.

Daniel: Hmm, that’s cool. It will be exciting to see what happens in the future.

Daniel: I saw on the Australian Deaf Games website that there were other events during the Australian Deaf Games that had nothing to do with sport. Some of these events were in the evening, and some during the day. Can you tell us more about these events?

Chris: The Australian Deaf Games is not just a sporting event. The Deaf Community values their social opportunities. These social events had different themes, such as Mental Health, which is a popular topic in the Deaf Community at the moment, so there were events focusing on that. The Deaf Community also has a large Rainbow Community, so they had their own event too, which was open to everyone, not just people who identified as being part of the Rainbow Community. There was also a Deaf Youth event. The Australian Deaf Games were hosted in Newcastle, so local businesses from Newcastle were able to host their own events with Sign Language interpreters, such as a presentation about How to Make your own Wine. There were also local cruises, and movie nights, and other such events. There was also a Hub which acted like a Deaf Club where everyone was able to meet there.

Daniel: You mean like an Information Centre?

Chris: Yeah, that.

Daniel: That provides for a good opportunity to meet new people.

Chris: Yeah exactly. It was really valuable to have those opportunities because you get both social and sports options. There were some challenges such as a sports event being held at the same time as a social event, but as you know you cannot win everything.

Daniel: So, overall, would you say that having a New Zealand team going to the Australian Deaf Games to compete and get involved was a success? Would you do it again? And when does the next opportunity arise?

Chris: Newcastle was a success! The whole team competed well. We got on well with the Australian teams, and even some State teams didn’t have enough players so they had to call up some of our athletes to play for their teams. So, for an example, we only had a 3X3 Basketball team that was scheduled to play only for one day, and we wanted to get more value for those athletes, so we asked State teams playing regular Basketball if they were short on players and whether they would like some New Zealand athletes to play for them. Some of these teams had Australian Goannas players with lots of experience, and they were able to provide our athletes with some tips, mentoring etc. Our basketball athletes were young, like 15, 16, and 18 years of age so they were able to learn a lot from this experience. That was a success for us. In other sports like Netball, Futsal and Lawn Bowls, we were able to secure some medals. We definitely want to do this again! We will try to use that success to bring back the New Zealand Deaf Games, but of course in a smaller format. And we will also look at how we can work closely with Deaf Sports Australia, because we both see Deaf Sports around the world is now becoming more regional, with New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific grouping up into one region. Asia has their own region, as well as Europe. There is still the Deaflympics ongoing every 4 years, which means in-between the Deaflympics cycle there are times where other regional Deaf Sports events can happen.

Daniel: Now that the Australian Deaf Games has concluded, what is happening next for Deaf Sports here in New Zealand this year? Are there any plans for next year?

Chris: At the moment we have an Annual General Meeting coming up which will be announced soon, and we are focussing on developing relationships with Deaf Sports Organisations. Deaf Touch want to establish themselves, as well as New Zealand Deaf Cricket. We need to work with them. Also New Zealand Deaf Basketball will be sending a 3X3 team to the World Championship at the end of the year.

Daniel: Where?

Chris: Argentina.

Daniel: Argentina! Wow!

Chris: There is also the usual Futsal Championship, and Basketball Championship happening, so we will continue with supporting those events and organisations to increase our capacity. We also want to be able to recruit more mainstreamed athletes. This is important because at the Australian Deaf Games we had two athletes from mainstreamed schools, and we know there are many more mainstreamed students out there that could get involved with Deaf Sports. We just need to find them!

Daniel: How can the New Zealand Deaf Community support Deaf Sports New Zealand with your plans for the future?

Chris: Join the Deaf Sports New Zealand Executive Board. Our Executive Board have really struggled over the last 5 years with not enough people, not enough commitment. We know COVID came along, and that businesses are struggling too. People have decided to focus on their families. We know that. Having more capacity in our Board means that we can share the workload. I mean you know from your time that there were already some difficulties with the capacity of the Board. We need to work smarter. We have a better relationship with Sport New Zealand now, so that is working well. We need the Deaf Community to support the Board, or some people might have a particular skill such as PR but don’t want to be on a Board, or maybe they have experience with Live Streaming, or anything. It does not matter if it’s big or small, your help would be appreciated.

Daniel: Well, I look forward to seeing what happens next with Deaf Sports and seeing what events are on so that I can go, watch, and cheer on the local team. That would be good fun!

Chris: Yeah, there will be a Basketball Championship in June, and a Futsal Championship in September, so those are the events you can go to.

Daniel: Well, that’s great. We have an exciting year ahead of us. I would like to thank you for your time. I hope the New Zealand Deaf Community enjoy watching this Deaf Lens video and learn more about Deaf Sports New Zealand, and what has been happening, and also what will be happening later this year.

Chris: The future is looking good, so I hope people can see that and realise that there are positive things happening and that they are working. In turn they will provide their support.

Daniel: Thank you. Bye.

Chris: Bye.

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