WCPO: Deaf 13-Year-Old Gymnast Hopes to Compete in 2020 Olympics

Originally aired on WCPO – February 6, 2018

Nothing can stop Mykenzie Pfeiffer, a 13-year-old gymnast who lost her hearing as a toddler. She’s still a backflipper, a high-beam walker and a hopeful for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“They’re like, ‘If you don’t make it, don’t be upset; you’ve worked really hard,'” she said. “But my mom is like, ‘I guarantee you’ll make it.'”

Pfeiffer was born with an enlarged vestibular aqueduct, or EVA, a deformity of the inner ear that allows fluid to flow back and forth instead of heading in one direction.

It’s a frequent cause of childhood hearing loss, which can come on suddenly or decline over a long period of time.

“She got ill one weekend over Christmas break and had a viral infection,” her father, Robert Pfeiffer, explained. “The pressure in her head caused her to go deaf overnight. There was nothing that could be done for it.”

Mykenzie’s next year was one of doctor’s appointments, lip reading practice and preparation to receive the cochlear implants she now uses to hear in her day-to-day life. On the mat, however, she takes them out.

“I do it without hearing the music,” she said. “My coach claps when the music comes on.”

Another challenge Mykenzie and her family have faced has been her schooling. Mykenzie had to leave a Cincinnati Public School because despite having straight A’s, her attendance was low due to doctor appointments.

Now she’s a 7th grader at the Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA), that way she can take her lessons wherever she goes.

To learn more about Ohio Virtual Academy, visit ohva.k12.com.

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