Nukeitra Hayes may not be able to hear — but her accomplishments are resounding.
The 24-year-old Anderson native recently helped the U.S. women's basketball team win the gold medal at the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria. Despite having precious little practice time, the team coalesced and defeated a host of opponents, including Italy, Ukraine, China, Belarus and Greece to reach the gold medal game.
In the final, Hayes and the U.S. defeated Ukraine again, this time in an 81-57 blowout. Hayes, who stands 6-foot tall, played a key role for the Americans throughout, reaching double figures in both point and rebounds at least three times.
Hayes and her teammates played for the joy of competition and a shot at glory. The Ukraine players, Hayes said, had been promised $80,000 apiece if they won the gold.
Meanwhile, the U.S. women had to pay their own way to Bulgaria, and the Anderson community came through for Hayes, helping support her trip to the Deaflympics.
Hayes' triumph calls to mind the excellence of another Andersonian decades ago. Ann Reifel competed in track and field in three Deaflympics — 1969 (Belgrade), 1973 (Sweden) and 1977 (Bucharest). Reifel won four silver medals and a bronze.
People with no disabilities can have difficulty accomplishing anything extraordinary, and often find plenty of excuses for falling short.
So, when someone overcomes hardship to excel, it can inspire others to take full advantage of their gifts to do special things, as well. Nukeitra Hayes has done that — loud and clear.
In summary Nukeitra Hayes, with the community behind her, helped the U.S. women's basketball team win the gold medal in the Deaflympics.