Though Deaf, XTERRA Competitor Taylor Seavey Sends a Message That’s Loud and Clear
By ROBERT COLLIAS, Staff Writer - The Maui News
MAKENA --- Taylor Seavey comes from a long line of determined athletes who dare to stretch the limits of terrain and challenges.
Seavey, however, will be in a different world than that of his predecessors when he lines up for the start of the Xterra World Championship off-road triathlon on Sunday.
Seavey is 18 years old and will be competing in his first off-road triathlon, far from his Alaska home. He has been deaf since birth.
''I don't think it is any more challenging because when people are out there racing I can see that they are in their own little worlds also and they don't talk to anyone else,'' Seavey said through his mother and sign-language interpreter, Siri Seavey. ''They just do their own race. I am doing my own thing. I don't see myself as any different from anyone else. I grew up in a family who is all hearing, so I feel like I am included as much as I can be and nothing holds me back. Other people maybe see me different.
''It does give me some solitude. It also is hard --- sometimes I have to listen to my own mind, a lot. Physically it is no big deal, but my mind can be my biggest enemy. ''
His grandfather, Dan Seavey, was one of the founders of the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. His father, Darian Seavey, has raced in the Iditarod and his uncle, Mitch Seavey, won in 2004.
''I started doing my first triathlon after swimming competitively (in high school),'' Taylor Seavey said Wednesday on the beach in front of the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. ''It was a small sprint triathlon in Seward, my hometown. I said, 'I want to go do that. That sounds like a challenge.' So I went and I did that and after that I was hooked.''
Taylor Seavey was visiting his sister Tarah Statham, a Maui resident, last year when the Xterra made its 13th appearance on the Valley Isle. Again, he was hooked.
''After watching it, I decided I have to do this race,'' Taylor Seavey said. ''I want to do this race. I trust my preparations and my confidence in my training. I feel as ready as I can be.''
The family members who support Seavey also marvel at his drive.
The race begins at 9 a.m. at Maluaka Beach Park and comprises a 1-mile ocean swim, a 20-mile mountain-bicycle leg that will rise to 3,000 feet of elevation and a 7.5-mile run.
''As a long-distance sled-dog racer, I know something about long, tough races,'' Mitch Seavey wrote in an e-mail about his nephew. ''But I must say, Taylor's discipline and hard work have been an inspiration to me, and his permanent smile reminds me that we must first race for the joy of racing, and winning will follow.''
Taylor Seavey's sister is four years older, and her younger brother never fails to amaze her.
''I am really proud of him, it is exciting, it is fun to watch him,'' Statham said. ''I root for him, help him train and everything. He is an incredible kid. I have never seen anyone his age be this determined with anything, this dedicated. I don't know where he gets it. It is amazing.''
Taylor Seavey was home-schooled and didn't do a whole lot athletically before joining the Seward High School swim team as a sophomore.
''From video games and go-karts, definitely, it was basically an overnight change,'' Statham said. ''All of a sudden he took up swimming and he became an athlete quick.''
Taylor Seavey added: ''I didn't do anything at all before swimming. I was a little chubby kid who rode things with engines on them. No walking, no running at all.''
Statham's 16-month-old daughter, Setra, is tight with her uncle Taylor, who communicates quite well with everyone around him --- including those who do not sign --- with his smile.
''Oh yeah, they are good buddies --- she goes up to him and does this,'' Tarah Statham said of her daughter's hand motions in her own sign language. ''He just watches her. It is really cute. She is learning sign language, too.''
Taylor Seavey's father has seen his son accomplish more and more of late.
''I'm not surprised, but it is definitely a change,'' Darian Seavey said. ''The last year and a half has been leaps and bounds. It is night and day, really. But I think he was obviously headed to this all along. We just didn't know it. The personality was there. The Seaveys are a bunch of hard-headed people and once you get an idea in our minds we make it happen.''
Darian Seavey admits his son needed time to get some of the technical aspects of mountain biking down, ''but I don't keep up with him anymore.''
And that Iditarod attitude is part of Taylor Seavey's makeup.
''Absolutely,'' Darian Seavey said.
Taylor Seavey acknowledges he has come a long way in the last five years.
''When I was 13 I was a little withdrawn,'' he said. ''I didn't really include myself in a lot of things, public activities. So when I got into swimming I got to be interactive more socially and then got more and more confident. It helped me to let my deafness, not to have my deafness hold me back, but to just go and do things that any hearing people can do. Except for flying helicopters, maybe.''
Seavey qualified for a Junior Olympics regional meet in Alaska in the 200-meter butterfly, but now his focus is firmly on triathlons. He would like to become a professional triathlete and compete in the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island one day.
Seavey swims in Alaska lakes with water temperatures as low as 58 degrees --- with a wet suit --- just one of the challenges he meets to compete in events like the Xterra.
''The (Seavey) family determination is in my genes,'' he said. ''I am as prepared for this race as I can be, even if I have to carry my bike 10 miles, I will, on my back.''
Robert Collias is at email@example.com
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