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Special Olympian hears for the first time

31-year-old Senegalese footballer supplied with hearing aid on sidelines of the Games

Members and support staff of the Senegal team comfort an inconsolable Mame Mdiaye after gains hearing ability.
Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: When Senegal’s Determined footballer Mame Mdiaye walked into the Special Olympic Games opening ceremony at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday, his hearing aid was his teammates.

Deaf and dumb by birth Mdiaye, celebrated and rejoiced on Friday as the curtains went up looking at the smiles of his compatriots and the other competitors around.

However, little did he know that his world would turn on its head in less than 24 hours.

The 31-year-old just so happened to visit the ‘Healthy Hearing’ pavilion at the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Centre at Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) on Friday, where a thorough hearing health screening done by Starkey Hearing Technologies, found that he would be able to hear if he was fitted with a hearing aid.

Once fitted and Mdiaye began to hear for the first time in his life there were emotional scenes with tears rolling out of his eyes and those of his coaches and teammates, who were inconsolable.

Choked with emotion coach Assane Thiam told Gulf News: “I knew about this before and when I came to know that they were going to be here at the Special Olympics again, I immediately thought of Mame and wanted to get his ears screened.

“We had no expectations and never thought that a miracle of this sort was in store for us. This is a great victory for us. We don’t need any medals because we have already won.”

Mdiaye, who missed out on his schooling because he couldn’t hear or speak, is one of the biggest entertainers on his team, according to his coach.

“We all love him and are so happy for him,” added Thiam. “The whole Senegal team have got tears of joy in their eyes as we cannot believe what has happened and how it is going to transform his life.

“On behalf of Mame and the Senegal team, we would like to thank the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes programme and Starkey for helping us transform a life forever,” he added.

Bill Austin, Founder and CEO of Starkey Hearing Technologies who set up the camp at ADNEC Hall Number 1 with 40 volunteers also was beaming with excitement.

“This initiative at the Special Olympics will make healthy hearing more inclusive to People of Determination. Despite severe need and higher health risks, People of Determination are often denied basic health care and services and are frequently among the most vulnerable populations in any country. Unfortunately, unlike any other health condition hearing disabilities are left untreated until the person loses his complete sense of hearing in most cases. We are here to support them and generate the right level of awareness so that they lead a more fulfilling and happier lifestyle,” said Austin.