Buffalo Courier-Express

Javelin Toss Is as True In This or Silent World

WITH GILDED HAIR, eyelashes and eyebrows, Karen Tellinghuisen looks and feels as golden as the medal she won in the recently held International Deaf Olympics.

Just home from the games in Bucharest, Romania, the 18 year-old savors her instant celebrity – even though she never heard the roar of the crowd, the whine of her record breaking javelin throw or the nonstop words of praise she’s received since arriving home last week.

HER OLYMPIC gold medal victory is particularly sweet for a number of reasons. And the Falconer teenager hopes it goes a lot farther than the 127 foot and 3 inch hurl of her javelin.

Karen can remember the days when the hearing world was not eager to talk with her. The Olympic star, who blushes easily, remembers the days when she’d ask her younger sister, Dorine, to go along with her to a store, for fear of impatient and callous clerks. The days when she would come home in tears because of the cruel taunts of other kids.

“My brother and I beat up a lot of kids who hurt her, trying to make fun of her,” recalls Dorine, 15.

NOW KAREN is recognized on the street as a champ.

“Hearing people feel we’re different,” says the senior at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf.

“Sometimes they are afraid of us. They shun away. They don’t want to take the time to communicate with us.

“Some of these people think deaf people can’t really do anything and that we’re all mute.

“I HOPE I’ve helped to show how capable deaf people can be. That if you have the ability it doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or not.”

Karen and her family were in Buffalo last weekend to visit at the home of Karen’s boyfriend, Gary Schoenfeldt, who resides with his mother, Mrs. Frank Nelson, Jr. and Mr. Nelson in the City of Tonawanda.

Gary, a recent graduate of St. Mary’s, is an automobile body worker.

Both he and Karen, as they sit around a luncheon table at The Courier-Express along with Karen’s parents and sister, stress how important it is for those lucky enough to hear to be more patient with communication that’s a little slower.

“You feel lousy when people don’t want to bother,” Gary says.

And it does take a bit more time. In the first few minutes of the interview I flounder, giving in to the temptation to write out questions and rely on Dorine to mouth out what should be asked. The more Karen and I talk, the easier the interview flows and soon we are exchanging ideas with no trouble at all.

“I NEVER learned sign language,” says Karen’s mother, Mrs. Edward Tellinghuisen. “I was advised not to.

“I wanted her to talk and I treated her just like any other member of the family. Her handicap never got in the way.”

As a baby, Karen got along almost too well without her hearing.

“I NEVER realized she was deaf, she always minded,” continues Mrs. Tellinghuisen. “It was my sister who discovered something wrong when Karen was 16 months old.

Karen started speech training at age 2.

AT THE OLYMPICS, communicating with gestures broke international barriers. The 1,300 athletes could exchange thoughts despite the fact that they were from different parts of the world.

While she shared ideas, Karen didn’t share the general physical characteristics of the other female javelin throwers.

At 5 feet 3 1/2 inches and 119 pounds, she looks sylphlike in her green corduroy jeans and striped T-shirt. By comparison, the other girls in the javelin throw – especially those from Communist countries, her mother observes – “looked like bulldozers.”

These girls commented on how small Karen was,” says Mrs. Tellinghuisen.

“They couldn’t believe a girl that small could throw a javelin that far.”


“I didn’t let the size of the other girls bother me. If I made a mistake I tried to think positive.”

At St. Mary’s, Karen is a top award athlete active in basketball and volleyball. She’s also been a pitcher on a summer girls’ softball team in Falconer. The young woman plans to go to college after graduation to eventually become a physical education teacher for the deaf.

“I HOPE MY winning the gold will encourage other deaf people to get into more sports.

“I like the competition, the feeling of good health and being a champ."

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We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.