FARGO – Fargo North and Northern Lights Marlins swimmer Isaiah Skiple has loved being in the water since he was a baby.
He was born with a love for the water. He was also born deaf.
Being a deaf swimmer presents some challenges for Isaiah-not the least of which is not being able to hear the starting horn. Next week he will be meeting more swimmers who understand his challenges as he competes in the World Deaf Swimming Championships in San Antonio.
"We took him to his first swimming lessons at a year and a half," said Jason Skiple, Isaiah's dad. "They were the kind of swimming lessons where you had to have your parents in the water with you. She had a heck of a time trying to hold onto him because he wanted to get into the water."
Skiple has not lost his desire to get into the water over the years since his first swimming lesson. He spends a large portion of his time in the water practicing 10 hours a week-two times a day Monday through Friday. He also likes to be in the water outside of practice. His favorite thing to do for fun besides eating-the preferred pastime of many 15-year-old boys-he says is to go to the lake and ski, wakeboard and wakesurf.
"Water sports are fun," he said.
All of that time spent in the water led him to qualify for the World Deaf Swimming Championships. The WDSC is a swim meet open to all deaf swimmers around the world of any age that are able to swim a qualifying time in their event. It begins Aug. 17, but three days before that, Isaiah will join Team USA and partake in a rigorous practice schedule that includes two three-hour practices each day.
The WDSC has installed LED lights on the starting blocks as starting indicators, something most pools are not equipped with. Normally, Skiple has to turn his head to watch for a flash on the side of the pool to know when to start.
"The flash is for everybody," Jason Skiple said. "Whether they have deaf kids or not they always have the flash. The flash will come just a fraction of a second before the sound. So it's actually kind of an advantage."
Any advantage caused by seeing the flash before the other swimmers can react to the sound is negated, however, because Isaiah says "it takes time to move your head."
There have been times at meets where the flash was not working. In that event he has to watch for the official to signal the start, which slows him down even more because he is reliant upon the official's reaction to the sound.
It's something he's dealt with his entire life.
"I was born deaf," he said. "I was diagnosed at six weeks."
He is able to hear with the help of implants in each of his ears. He used a hearing aid in his right ear, which is the better of his ears, along with the implant in his left until he was 6 years old. When he was 6, the hearing aid failed and doctors put an implant in his right ear as well.
"He got his implants when he was 12 months old," said Anita Skiple, his mother. "He was the second 12-month-old at the University of Minnesota to get implants."
Swimming was not a big part of the Skiples' lives before Isaiah started swimming competitively when he was 8 years old.
Jason Skiple says he was afraid of swimming in deep water until just a few years ago. He had to overcome that fear in recent years, however, as he has taken up competing in triathlons. As part of his training, Jason enjoys getting into the pool and swimming with his son.
"The nice thing about his club team is they have open swim times," Jason Skiple said. "So I will swim with him-well, not really with him because I can't keep up with him anymore, not even close."