Buffalo Courier-Express

St. Mary’s Karen Eyes Deaf Olympics

When Karen Tellinghuisen’s team plays volleyball, intensity is thick in the air.

No one talks when they’re playing. No one says, “I got it!” or “throw it here.” No one’s eyes leave the white ball as it passes back and forth over the net.

Karen plays for St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. Her team holds third place in the Bea Massman High School League.

And Karen is their powerhouse. She’s got a spike that can’t be returned and a serve to match.

After a game recently between St. Mary’s and Park School, the entire Park team gathered around 18-year-old Karen and presented her with a check for $200, half from the players themselves and half from a restaurant.

After a game between Nardin Academy and St. Mary’s, the referee told Karen’s coach, Sharon Hadden, that she was donating half of her pay from the match to Karen.

At the last match of the season, against Nardin again on Dec. 21, that team will present Karen with a check also, money that they have reached into their own pockets for.

“I’m very thankful and very happy,” said Karen of the donations.

No, the 5-3 redhead is not a hardship case – she’s working to get to the Deaf Olympics in Bucharest, Romania, next July. Because chances are strong that she’s going to be bringing home “the gold.”

The Deaf Olympics, founded in Paris and running since 1924, are in the same financial position as the “hearing” Olympics. It costs enough just to hold the competition and there are no funds to bring the athletes to it.

Karen needs $2,500 to get there.

“We’re nickel and diming it so far,” said Lou Pennella, director of athletics at St. Mary’s. About $700 has been collected through raffles at the school, sale of buttons that read “USA,” encircled by “Romanian Deaf Olympics,” and donations.

And one might easily get the impression that the fair-skinned young lady, with aid of people who know and love her, is going to get there, come anything and high water.

“If it comes near the deadline, I’ll be burning the midnight oil to get that money,” said Pennella.

Karen is not going to the Olympics to volleyball, though that and basketball are sports she excels in. The team sports are filled by collegiate and more experienced players. Karen will throw the javelin, something she’s worked on for only a year.

Since Karen was in third grade, since she’s been winning softball throws at Catholic track meets with distances of up to 192 feet. “We were thinking of something she could do at the Olympics,” explained Pennella, “and we decided to teach her the javelin.”

Already, after some spring and fall training, she’s sending that spear some 116 feet. The gold medal throw was won in 1973 by a throw of 125 feet.

“Karen has a problem with her wrist which she turns before she lets go,” said Pennella. “Once we correct that we can probably add 10 or 20 feet more to her throw.”

“With the javelin, you need extensive training on your own and a lot of fortitude,” said Mike Best, Karen’s track coach, who set a freshman discus record at Buffalo State College which “as far as I know is still standing.”

“She takes it upon herself to train and the talent is there,” added Best. “A lot depends on how much she improves next spring because there’s no telling how much the others have improved.”

“I’m very excited,” said Karen, St. May’s first female Olympian, about the possibility of the trip to Romania. “I’d like to see everything.”

And she will if she goes. The trip includes three weeks of training in North Carolina, 10 days in Romania for competition and then three weeks of travel to Spain and possibly Egypt and Hungary.

“I want to bring home a gold,” said Karen, a smile of confidence spreading across her face.

If you watch her play volleyball, and see the determination in her face as she stretches, dives and leaps for the ball, you’ll probably get the same feeling that her supporters get.

Karen Tellinghuisen is going to do it.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.