Deaf St. Clair teen is breaking swimming records

14-year-old Molly Likins qualified for U.S. National team

By Jamie Edmonds - Reporter

ST. CLAIR, Mich. - When 14-year-old Molly Likins swims in a meet, she can't hear the starting gun or the whistle.

"Nothing, no sound in either ear," Likins said.

Likins is deaf, but she doesn't let it stop her from swimming competitively.

She and her coach, Ken Sygit, have been together for six years and have developed a rapport. They communicate through non-verbal cues and signs. Her teammates help by using touch on the starting block.

"Her teammates have learned," Sygit said. "I'll whistle and whoever is behind her will tap her on the back."

Once Likins gets into the water, all bets are off. She recently qualified for the U.S. National deaf team and swam in the World Deaf Championships two weeks ago. There, she broke two American records -- one for the 100 meter breast stroke and one for the 50 meter breast stroke in which she won the bronze medal.

Likins was the only Michigander at Worlds and one of the youngest. Her opponents were more than twice her age in some occasions.

"She will swim against anyone, any time, anywhere," Sygit said.

"When I looked up at the board, I was like, 'Yea! Finally got that record!'" Likins said. "I felt so happy and full of emotions. I was speechless."

Now back at home in St. Clair, Likins is gearing up for the high school swim season just like her teammates.

"I'm used to these people. I've been training with them since I was 8 years old," Likins said. "They don't treat me any differently. They just treat me like a normal being."

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