Hearing-impaired Selkirk basketball star honored for triumph on the court

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Annika Goodbrandson lost her hearing as a child, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of her hoop dreams.

The high school student and basketball player from Selkirk recently received the Lena Wenke Courage Award for becoming a star player while facing the challenges of her hearing loss.

The award is presented by Basketball Manitoba to a Grade 12 student who has faced and overcome obstacles or challenges in their life while remaining involved in the sport. It is named after the University of Winnipeg basketball player who survived a vicious attack in 2017 where she was stabbed multiple times.

“I really feel honored just because I admire Lena and look at what she’s overcome,” Goodbrandson said.

“Everyone has different challenges in their life, so I think it’s really important to recognize that in fact everyone has their own story.”

Goodbrandson, 18, plays for her school, Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary High School, and has pledged to play for the CMU women’s basketball program next season when she enters college.

Overcome the obstacles

Her family first realized that she was deaf when she was in daycare.

“I was looking out the window and my babysitter was knocking on a window behind me and I was not responding,” she said.

She was fitted with hearing aids, but when they did not work, she was fitted with a cochlear implant.

In her quote, she described the failure of her cochlear implant, which left her completely deaf until she could have surgery to have it replaced.

“Once re-implanted I was faced with the added challenge of ‘relearning’ how my new device handled sound, as it was completely different from my original device,” she wrote.

Goodbrandson said she never let her hearing loss get in the way of her passion for basketball. (Submitted by Annika Goodbrandson)

Despite these challenges, she says she never let her disability prevent her from playing the sport. Since starting playing for her high school team, she has helped them win a provincial championship in 2017 and competed at a national championship in Langley, BC the following year.

COVID-19 challenges

Being hard of hearing presents its own unique challenges in the field. The acoustics of a gym make it very difficult to use her cochlear implant, which means she often uses lip reading while playing, Goodbrandson said.

But that wasn’t possible during COVID-19, so Goodbrandson and her teammates found different ways to communicate, she said.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up with the same girls for the last five years in a club team, and they just said, ‘Annika! Annika, look at the coach, look at the coach’ or we have actually developed similar signals for different defenses that we are going to perform, ”she said.

Often, however, people don’t even realize that she is deaf, she said.

“So I take this comment and enjoy the experience of growing up as a hearing impaired person. [as a lesson] to always be humble and kind because you don’t know everyone’s situation, ”she said.

She hopes her story will inspire others to persevere despite life’s challenges.


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