Alex with his mother Libby

18-year-old Alex Kirchner from Melbourne plans on taking his swimming talent to the Olympics in the long term. In the past, he achieved many recognitions for his swimming on local, state, national and international levels. In addition to that, Mr Kirchner recently won the Male Athlete of the Year Award from Deaf Sports Australia this year.

His best records to date are breaking a total of four swimming short courses last year – 50 Freestyle, 100 Freestyle, 50 Backstroke and 100 Backstroke; all of which are new World Deaf Records.

When he was just one year old, Alex’s parents found out he was deaf. His mother was concerned for his future, but his father reassured her. “My husband said, “if a boy can play sport, he will be okay,” so [Alex] started playing sport from a very young age,” said Mrs Libby.

Alex started swimming at a very young age and progressed through the Learn to Swim levels. When he turned 10 years old, he began training with squads. He became very passionate with his swimming and joined his local Nunawading Swimming Club at 11 years of age to become more competitive.

“[My parents] always did everything they could to ensure I lived a normal life, not one that was hindered by my deafness. They got up every morning at 4am to take me to training and ensured that I could always be at school on time with a proper lunch after the morning rush when getting from training to school,” Alex says, recalling his daily routine.

In sports, often deaf athletes would use a buddy-system or visual cues such as flags, where the coach/trainer tap the athlete to indicate that they need to start. Technology assistance is now becoming available, with the lighting systems being installed for accessibility. Alex recalls his mother assisting him with his swimming start. “I used to have my mother hold my ankle and release, but now I look at the light after realising it was much faster.”

Swimmers are not able to wear their hearing devices in the water, which can sometimes affect communication. “[My] biggest hurdle is hearing the coach and other instructions at training when there’s so many of us. I act in a very mainstream manner; thus, most people tend to forget I’m deaf. This is the case at training, school, my social life and even [with] my best friends!” Alex said.

“My disability [is] a major part of me, so I embrace it and [it] hasn’t stopped me from being the best version of myself. In fact, it has fuelled me to become a significantly stronger, independent, focused, disciplined and grateful person.”

Next year, Alex will be relocating to Queensland for university and swimming.

Media contact:
Lauren Townsend