Manitoba teacher following dreams on Canadian Deaf Basketball Team

A Richer, Man. high school gym teacher has found his place on the Canadian Deaf Basketball Team.

Lifelong athlete Graham Bodnar was presented with a life-changing opportunity when an event for athletes who are deaf came to Winnipeg.

“There was a tournament in Winnipeg called the Canada Deaf Games at one point and a friend asked me if I qualified for that, I’ve worn hearing aids my entire life,” Bodnar said. “I didn’t know, but I looked into (t and sure enough my hearing qualified. So I joined the Manitoba team for that.”

From there, he went on to make the national team.

Bodnar depends on hearing aids to listen and communicate on a daily basis, but is not allowed to wear them when he is on the court competing.

“The challenge is the communication piece,” he said. “We have interpreters and there is sign language. But you can’t actually just communicate with your teammates as easily as you can in regular basketball.”

Recently, Team Canada ventured to Argentina in hopes of qualifying for the Deaf World Games.

Finishing fourth and falling short of a medal to move on, Bodnar said it was an eye-opening experience for him and his teammates.

“We had a chance to compete with three of the top five teams in the world and we gave them some good games,” he said.

“We really found that we were in the mix with those teams, but we still need to get a lot better if we are going to beat them.”

Being the only Manitoban on the team, Bodnar said it adds an extra challenge as they aren’t always able to practice with each other, something he hopes to change in the future.

“We are looking for more training time together in hopes of qualifying for the 2025 Deaf Olympics in Japan. So there is still some time and we are hoping to qualify, but we definitely need more time together to make that happen.”

Bodnar has received a lot of support from his students and colleagues and hopes his story serves as an important lesson.

“I give them a lot of encouragement about following their dreams and their goals and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Then to watch me doing that in real time is kind of surreal to me. They had a chance to actually see me following my dreams, kind of thing. So it’s really cool and it’s something I don’t take lightly.”

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