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Deaf swimmer keeps a beat

‘You can do anything,’ says 12-year-old Auburn girl
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Lindsey Guevel is just like any other 12-year-old synchronized swimmer who loves her teammates and feels proud of her accomplishments, but Lindsey is also completely deaf in the water. Lindsey has lived in Auburn all her life, and has been hard of hearing since birth. Normally she wears a hearing aid, but that isn’t possible in the water. Since she can’t hear the music that goes along with her routines, Lindsey counts to herself to keep on beat. Lindsey said her experience with music has helped with synchronized swimming. “I’ve done piano for a couple of years, so I know the beats … but sometimes it changes, so I just practice it over and over until I get it in my head,” she said. Lindsey has been a member of the Auburn Mermaids synchronized swimming team since she was 7 years old. Her teammates range in age from 5 to 18 years old. Lindsey said her older sister Lauren, 16, introduced her to the sport, which has become one of her favorite activities. “I love doing the routines,” she said. “It’s like dancing in water. I think it’s the most fun (sport). It’s hard but at the end it’s like, ‘That was fun.’” Susie Parker has been working as Lindsey’s swim-team interpreter for three years. She signs and speaks during practices and meets, because Lindsey also reads lips. Parker said she enjoys working with Lindsey because the swimmer isn’t afraid to ask for help. “She is so much fun to work with,” Parker said. “When she doesn’t understand something, she will ask for clarification.” Lindsey has just as much ability as any other swimmer, Parker said. “She’s got the capability,” she said. “She can’t hear the music, but she’s got good rhythm and good response. Just because you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can still have goals and aspirations, and she’s a true testament to that.” Her teammates also make sure she doesn’t lose her place when she’s swimming, Lindsey said. “My sister and her friend, when I’m performing, they are standing out and they are counting … so when I get lost I pop out and then I know,” Lindsey said. Teresa Guevel, Lindsey’s mother, said she is thankful to the Auburn Recreation District for providing her daughter with an interpreter and encouraging Lindsey to be an active team member. Lindsey’s teammate Samantha Thomas, 17, said she thinks it’s inspiring to see Lindsey do so well on the team. “I think it’s really amazing that she can get the right count and do everything else that everyone else is doing, but she can’t hear what is going on,” Thomas said. Thomas said everyone on the Mermaids knows Lindsey can’t hear in the water, but members of other teams would never know it. “She has this gift for it,” Thomas said. “No one could tell she is deaf.” Lindsey is also an enjoyable person to be around, Thomas said. “She’s just a very kind person,” she said. “If you were sitting by yourself, she would go up and talk to you and say, ‘How was your day?’ She’s a very kind and loving person.” Rosalie Weber, Thomas’ grandmother, said she loves to see Lindsey’s teammates supporting her. “My granddaughter just adores her,” Weber said. “I think it’s so neat the girls are like that and take her under their wings. She just tries really hard and she does well. I really enjoy seeing her swim because she’s amazing.” Lindsey, who has won numerous awards on her swim team including three championship awards, will be an eighth grade student at Ophir Elementary School next year. The school has a program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. She then plans to attend Del Oro High School, which also has a deaf program. She lives in Auburn with her mother, father, Rick, sister, Lauren, and brother, David, 15. Besides swimming, Lindsey said she enjoys a number of activities and plays percussion in her school district’s Junior Golden Eagle Band. “I like school,” she said. “I love doing sports, except running. I like doing soccer and volleyball. I’m just involved with sports. I don’t let my hearing stop me from doing that.” Teresa Guevel said she’s proud her daughter lives an outgoing life. “I think what is inspiring about Lindsey is she’s not afraid to try new things,” Teresa Guevel said. “She knows some things are harder for her than other people, but she’s wiling to try anyway.” Lindsey said she wants everyone to know that differences shouldn’t stand in the way of goals. “I would say that you can join even if you have a difficulty,” she said. “Like me, I joined and I kept going, even though I had a hard time. I want to say you can do anything. Even if you have a hard time with it, you can accomplish it.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com