Milwaukee speedskater defies the odds
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MILWAUKEE - His name is Michael Hubbs, and he trains at the Pettit Center 6 days a week. The world is almost completely silent for him.
"My sister and I are both deaf, there was no illness we were just born that way," says Hubbs through a sign language interpreter.
Michael is 30 years old with a degree in Business Administration and Marketing. A former inline skater, he got serious about speedskating just three years ago, and moved to Milwaukee in August.
"I don't feel like my deafness is an obstacle. I don't really care to be honest that I am deaf," he says.
His coach, Kreg Greer, did not know any sign language before meeting Michael.
"I love working with him because he works hard.. harder than anyone else... We write down things or do signs... Even though communication sometimes is rough he still works hard and progresses well.. he tries so hard, it's very inspirational," says Greer.
Deaf people can compete in the regular Olympics, but it's rare, and Michael would be the first in speedskating. He has about a 90% hearing loss, but there is one sound he can pick up--the starting gun. "I can hear it, it's loud enough I can hear it."
Michael's challenges began at a very young age. His father was homeless and mother out of the picture. He and his sister went to live with a grandma, but she had no real interest in learning sign language.
"She thought 'Well he can hear a little bit', so she put the responsbility back on me.. the result was I did get involved with some of the wrong crowds, street gangs, drugs," says Michael.
But the experience ultimately motivated him. "I saw a lot of laziness. Laziness is in your head and leads to a certain lifestyle."
Michael has chosen the opposite path--one that he hopes will steer him to the Olympics.
"Oh man it would mean a lot. I know I would be an inspiration to other deaf people out there and people of all disabilities. You can overcome whatever you want," he exclaims.
You can also be happy doing it. "Negativity enters into my mind, but to complain that's not me, that's not worth it."
In fact, one of Michael's favorite childhood pictures shows him with a big toddler grin. He likes the photo because it epitomizes the attitude he's had since birth. Michael is half Japanese and 1/4 Native American. His idol is Apolo Ohno.
Training for the Olympics can cost up to $50,000 per year. If you'd like to help Michael achieve his dream he's on Facebook and Twitter under 'Samurai Skater'. His website is www.michaelwhubbs.com.