Learning to swim is an important skill for most people but, according to Brooke Thompson, it was particularly essential for her. The Bloomfield Hills resident was born deaf and received her first cochlear implant around the time of her first birthday.
“I have always loved water. My parents tell me that I learned how to walk trying to get to the fountains that shoot out of the ground at a water park. They felt that it was important for me to learn how to swim well, since I am deaf. I took some lessons when I was little but didn't really learn how to swim until I was eight years old. I was fascinated by the swimming in the Olympics that year and really took off after that.” She started competitive swimming at age nine.
Since that time, swimming has become a significant part of Thompson’s life. As a senior at International Academy, she swims on the Bloomfield Hills High School and Motor City Aquatics swim teams. In May, she competed in the 2022 Deaflympics in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, with the USA Deaf Swimming (USADS) team. USADS membership is for athletes who are deaf or hard of hearing as defined by the organization’s regulations.
At this year’s Deaflympics, the talented swimmer earned an impressive five gold medals and three bronze medals.
“I was so happy. Standing on the podium while the national anthem is played and signed is truly amazing.”
She adds, “It was a great experience. The swimming part was eight days long with morning prelims and evening finals. It is pretty intense. I had events seven of the eight days. One of my favorite things is meeting the swimmers from other countries. We have an immediate bond as we are all deaf/hard of hearing and we all love swimming. We have fun trading pins and caps from our home countries.”
The 2022 Deaflympics was Thompson’s second trip to Brazil. Her first international competition was in Sao Paolo at the World Deaf Swimming Championship in 2019. She plans to compete in Buenos Aires, Argentina next summer.
“My parents are very supportive. My mom uses a lot of her vacation time to take me to meets. My dad gets so excited and analyzes times and techniques. I couldn't do it all if I didn't have my family to support me.
“Swimming takes up a lot of time, especially this year as I am one of the captains,” Thompson says. “I swim about nine times a week for 90 minutes to two hours or more. It can make me sore. You are always staring at the bottom of the pool. And it can be hard to balance the rest of my life with my schedule.”
Besides her challenging swim schedule, Thompson is involved with several other school-related activities, including National Honor Society and Peers Corps, as well as working as an editor on the school yearbook. Like any teen, she also likes hanging out with her friends.
Despite the hard work and time commitment, Thompson’s love of the sport outweighs the adversities. She has given her verbal commitment to Rutgers University, where she plans to study biomedical engineering – and continue her swim career on the Rutgers swim team.
She explains, “I really enjoy the water and working hard and seeing what I can do. It calms me down when I feel stressed.”
Story: Tracy Donohue
Photo: Mackenzie O'Brien