Terence Parkin - Olympic silver medallist

Terence is a deaf swimmer who won the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 200 metres breaststroke. He also competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was born 12 April 1980 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. To obtain better treatment for him, the family moved to Durban, where he swam with coach Graham Hill at Westville.

Parkin has also been a regular competitor in the Deaflympics Games, since 1997, winning a total of 34 medals in both swimming and cycling. Thirty-one of these medals were golds. At the 2009 Games he set 7 new records.

Today Terence Parkin has become an icon. He has won over 400 gold medals, 200 silver medals, and 50 bronze medals through various competitions, and continues to hold Deaf World Records.1 He has participated in 2 Olympics, 5 Deaflympics, 2 Commonwealth Games, 1 Goodwill Games, FINA World Championships, FINA Swimming World Cups, Pan Pacific Championships, Africa Games, South Africa National Championships, and 24 Midmar Miles. He had a South African stamp issued in his honor in 2001.

He has also been named an ambassador of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. He has received many awards including World Deaf Sportsman of the Year (1997, 2000, 2001, 2005), CISS Sportsman of the Century (2000), SA Schools Sportsman of the Year (2002), and Gold Presidential Awards (2000, 2001, 2002).1 Additionally, in 2011 Parkin saved a 7 year old boy from drowning after he got his arm stuck in a swimming pool vent at a Johannesburg gym.

In 2017 Terence was appointed to the The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, an organization that teaches essential water safety skills and how to swim, as the official Ambassador for the Deaf and Blind. 

Today Terence lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife Ingrid, who also attended the Fulton School for the Deaf in Durban. He coaches sports at the St. Vincent School for the Deaf, where Ingrid is the Head.

Parkin out to win, prove deaf can compete

March 21, 2000

Terence Parkin will be swimming at his first Olympic Games in Sydney this year. The 20-year-old South African was born with a severe hearing disability and uses sign language to communicate with his coach. But that hasn't stopped him from getting to the

Olympics, where he is hoping to make his mark.

"I am going to the Olympics to represent South Africa, but it's so vitally important for me to go, to show that the deaf can do anything," Parkin says. "They can't hear, they can see everything. I would like to show the world that there's opportunities for the deaf."

Parkin, who owns the African record in the 400 individual medley, won two silver medals earlier this year at the Short Course World Championships in Athens.

Parkin doesn't regard himself as being disabled, and when he's with hearing people, he feels he is their equal.

The South African wants to do the best he can in Sydney, and says he improves by always competing against himself. It's that attitude and the determination to succeed despite his deafness, that has got Parkin to Sydney where he'll be hoping to be rewarded with an Olympic medal.


by Stan Griffin, Deaf Friends International Special Contributor

"I think it will confirm that deaf people can do things." These were the words of Terence Parkin talking about his second-place finish in the Sydney Olympics 200-meter breaststroke final on September 20.

Asked about other effects of his performance, Parkin said, "Most deaf people in other countries know each other (and) ... know me. Not just athletes, it's beyond that ... (The deaf) help each other, and I hope this will help them."

Parkin has been swimming since the age of 12. Working with him has been his coach and friend, Graham Hill. During his career, Parkin earned distinction as his continent's fastest swimmer in the 200-meter breaststroke and the 400-meter individual medley. (Competitors in the medley must use four different strokes, one on each of the race's four legs: butterfly; backstroke; breaststroke, and freestyle).

Being deaf presents a problem at the beginning of each race when an electronic tone signals the official start. For a while, Hill would stand in Parkin's line of sight and signal him. They improved on that by using a light like a camera flash. Eventually they began using a strobe light, and this continues to work very efficiently. If there are swimmer introductions (as in most important races), Hill continues to cue him.

Parkin once used hearing aids when competing, but all the crowd noise disturbed him and made him nervous. He found it hard to "focus." Now, without the aids, there is a quiet atmosphere for the swimmer. Parkin is able to concentrate without audible interference and can think about his goals for the race.

In Sydney, once he touched the pool's end on his final lap, Parkin looked up at the scoreboard to verify his finishing position. He saw a "2," but at first thought this was just his lane number. Soon it became clear that he had entered "silver country." He clenched his fists, "punched the sky," and then draped South Africa's flag around his shoulders. Parkin's grin stretched from ear to ear.

On the day after his medal-winning race, Parkin and Hill were guests of the South African Club at Sydney's Darling Harbor. Crowds of spectators gathered to see them. As Parkin moved around the room accepting congratulations, some of the people shook his hand while others thumped him on the back.

During a live interview broadcast to South Africa, Parkin expressed the hope he could inspire athletes from smaller countries to win medals.

Even in the midst of such a joyful celebration, Parkin was brought back to earth by the words of a well-meaning but thoughtless South African official to his audience: "Can you imagine without that handicap of his how great he would be?" Parkin would disagree, believing that he actually holds an advantage in the pool since he is "capable of everything but hearing."

Parkin spent a sleepless night before his big race. On the night after, though, he slept well--he had his medal to keep him company!


Terence Parkin with Charlene Wittstock in 2000.

Met handgebare en al spat dowe Nataller water in Britse juniors se oë

25 Augustus 1995

KAAPSTAD. Terence Parkin moet hom op die handgebare van sy afrigter verlaat om weg te spring, maar dié struikelblok ten spyt, is dié jong Nataller wat van geboorte doof is besig om opslae te maak by die Britse nasionale junior gala in Leeds. Danksy die moderne tegnologie en elektroniese wegspringblokke (kompleet met 'n kamera wat flits wanneer die swemmers afgesit word) kan Parkin deesdae swem in enige geselskap wat hy kies.

Die 15-jarige st. 7-leerling aan die Fulton skool vir Dowes in Durban, het die afgelope week Brittanje, Amerika en Ierland se top- juniors in Leeds uitgestof en spog reeds met vier goue medaljes en 'n silwermedalje, terwyl nog 'n paar wink. Maar volgens Parkin se pa, Neville wat vroeg in die jare tagtig die Rhodesiese rugbyspan op die flank verteenwoordig het) is die kamera nie altyd so betroubaar nie ``veral nie in die donderstorms in die Pietermaritzburg omgewing of wan neer die lig baie skerp is nie.'' Daarom verlaat Parkin hom veel eerder op sy afrigter, Graham Hill (self 'n gewese Springbok swemmer) wat sy protégé van die oorkant van die swembad met 'n handgebaar tot aksie beveel.

Parkin spog met goue medaljes in die 100 borsslag (1:07.54), 400 wisselslag (4:37.68), 100 vryslag (54.76) en die 400 vryslag (4:08.97) en 'n tweede plek in 1:57.09 in die 200 vryslag. Vier Suid-Afrikaanse ouderdomsrekords het ook in die proses in die slag gebly, terwyl hy met sy wentyd in die 400 vryslag die Natalse ouderdomsrekord van 21 jaar van die huidige nasionale afrigter, Simon Gray, verpletter het. Hoewel hy maar drie jaar gelede begin swem het, het hy al verlede jaar by die Britse junior gala sukses begin smaak toe hy 'n goue medalje en twee silwermedaljes verower het. Vroeër vanjaar by die SA junior gala in Bloemfontein is hy as die beste swemmer aangewys en voor sy span se vertrek na Engeland het dieselfde eer hom by die nasionale wintergala in Sasolburg te beurt geval.


In recent times, Parkin's focus has been on cycling, but he was back in the pool for the 2009 Dealympics in Taipei and, once again, was on the winning trail.

He was unbeaten in the swimming in the seven events he entered, claiming gold in the 50, 100, and 200 metres breaststroke, the 200 and 400 metres individual medley, and the 200 and 1 500 metres freestyle.

On top of this, he proved he was excellent at cycling too by finishing third in the 93-kilometre road race.

Parkin's cycling success shouldn't have surprised anyone. In 2006, he won gold at the World Deaf Cycling Championships in the road race and picked up silver in the mountain bike event.

With Parkin leading the way, South Africa finished eighth on the 2009 Deaflympics medals table with eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

That he managed this success at the age of 29 confirms Parkin as an exceptional athlete, and the most successful athlete in the history of the Deaflympics, much like Phelps in the Olympics.

Terence Parkin in comeback bid

Terence Parkin, the Olympic silver medallist from Sydney 2000, has announced plans of a comeback to competitive swimming.

The deaf swimmer, who turns 32 in April, has not ruled out a bid to qualify for the London Olympic Games later this year.

He famously made headlines almost 12 years ago when he finished second in the men's 200 metres breaststroke.

Parkin took the first major steps towards a return last month when he swam at a two-day international swimming invitational in Durban.

“I started training in earnest in the middle of last year just to see what I was capable of achieving at my age,” he said.

“I had been doing a lot of triathlons, cycling and running, which I really love too.

“So I have been keeping fit and once I started to swim I just felt good in the water and thought, maybe I’ll come back and try again.”

The Zimbabwe-born athlete competed in a range of events in Durban, but in his main event, came first in his heat and then ended fourth in the final with a time of two minutes, 18.62 seconds.

Parkin, now based in Johannesburg where he has a family and works as a swimming coach said he was reluctant to commit to an Olympic goal, realising the high standard set for qualifying times.

“I got 2:18 at that meet but the qualifying time is 2:11, so I’m not sure if I can shave seven seconds off in a few short months,” Parkin said.

“But I will still continue to train and work hard to improve my times.”

South Africa’s swimming head coach Graham Hill was also pleased by what he saw and expected Parkin to do his best to try and get back to the highest level.

“You can never say no to Terence that's his whole strategy, that's his whole plan. He never gives up, he never says no,” said Hill.

“I have seen him and he has been working with me over the December and January period and has been as committed as ever in the pool.”

As for the Olympic dream, Parkin, who swam a 2:12.50 to finish second behind Italian Domenico Fioravanti over a decade ago, is not willing to put a definitive answer forward.

“I won't commit myself to a definite answer,” said Parkin.

“I'm aware of how hard the competition is today and don't want to end up disappointed.”

If Parkin wants to qualify, he will have to swim inside the 2:11.74 qualifying time at the national trials to be held in Durban in April.

He will then need to swim the time once more at a Fina meet in accordance with a SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) policy that requires swimmers to record an A-standard time twice in the lead-up to the Games. – Sap

Terence Parkin - The silent success

12 March 2000

Six years ago Terence Parkin was being lapped by the girls in his swimming team. Today he is tipped to bring back gold from this year's Sydney Olympics.

It has taken thousands of hours of training, staring at a black line at the bottom of the pool and a huge amount of talent to take him to the top. But it is more than just his athletic ability that sets Terence apart. He mixes talent and courage in equal quantities.

Lately Terence Parkin's life has been filled with applause. He is South Africa's latest swimming sensation and greatest prospect for this year's Olympic Games. Ranked No. 1 in the 200-metre breaststroke and 400-metre individual medley, he has consistently broken records. But Terence hasn't heard any of the applause; he has been deaf since birth.

Terence was born in Zimbabwe 19 years ago, into a world that was completely silent. But because it was the only world he knew, Terence immersed himself in it and would soon turn his isolation into an advantage.

Lolette Smith, Terence's friend and favourite teacher, helped him talk to us.

Terence Parkin: "I just love swimming, I enjoy it so much. I actually enjoy the feeling of getting tired from swimming."

At first his parents, Neville and Bev, had no idea that there was anything wrong.

Neville Parkin: "We were both young when he was born and, being our first kid, we weren't really sure. His baby talk was normal, he laughed, he smiled - he was like a normal kid."

When Terence was 18 months old Neville and Bev realised that he couldn't hear anything and doctors confirmed their worst fears. There were very few educational opportunities or a support system for deaf children in Zimbabwe and the Parkins, and the then three-year old Terence, decided to move to Durban. Here Terence found himself knee-deep in the stuff he liked best - water. However, there was another cruel blow in store for him. A day's outing in this jeep nearly ended his life.

Neville: "We were going so slow and, instead of jumping off, he just held on and his head actually rolled over into the wheel. And being a flat tyre just churned him into the wheel."

True to his spirit, he was soon taking on the world again. His scar and shaved head have become a Terence Parkin trademark.

Les: "When did you notice Terence's potential?"

Neville: "I took him to junior school trials. He swam there and got disqualified in the 200-metre IM (Individual Medley). He did a wrong turn. And then Dennis White, who was timing the lanes, said, 'Your boy has got talent, don't overlook him'."

That turned out to be the best bit of advice the Parkin family ever got. A month later, Graham Hill (above) - once a South African champion swimmer himself - took Terence under his wing.

Graham Hill: "I saw a kid who really wanted to get into swimming, but wasn't quite up to the standard of the other kids his age. He had more enthusiasm than the other kids. but just wasn't there. We used to laugh about it, we still do laugh about it. Terence was really slow when he came."

Six years later Terence Parkin is the fastest kid on the block. King's Park Stadium in Durban is where Terence had his first swimming gala and also where he broke his first national record. It wasn't much longer before Terence was being noticed internationally.

Graham: "It was our third trip to the UK and I took Terence with us. He just seemed to shine and came away with seven gold medals at the British Nationals. The coaches came up to me and said, 'This boy is tough, let's see if he can continue with the seniors'. I came back from the UK and realised we've got something here."

What makes Terence's wins all the more impressive is the environment in which he trains. Although South Africa is ranked the fourth best swimming nation in the world, international competitors can't believe that such talent can come out of these basic facilities.

Graham: "Overseas they have four pools, two 25-metre, two 50-metre and indoor pools, along with hi-tech heating facilities, medical rooms, doctors, psychologists. You name it, they've got everything."

These young swimmers are all talented, they are superbly fit and some are at the top of their field. But what is it about Terence Parkin that sets him apart?

Terence: "When I'm swimming in a competition and I see a person's coming up really close to me I imagine there's no one next to me. So I really work my hardest to get a good time and break a record."

Les: "Do you think sometimes your silent world is an advantage?"

Terence: "I can concentrate, I can focus on what I'm doing. I don't have to listen to the discussion or negative talk around me, So I'm able to focus. I don't have to worry about what other people say."

Locked in concentration, Terence is an intimidating sight.

Graham: "He's fully shaved - it's quite a scary look. He's well-built and over six foot, so he's a big boy. He stands there - shaved head, relaxed and focused on what he's doing."

Les: "Do you think you make other swimmers nervous?"

Terence: "I can't really say what's going on with them. I look at them and they look at me and I feel nervous too. But I like to reassure them - 'Don't be too nervous about me'."

Quite rightly, the competition is nervous about his awesome talent, but at last he is getting some recognition here at home.

This was Terence's car. He used to drive it to his daily training sessions with his younger sister Laura. Convinced it was a death trap and that Terence would never make it to practice, Graham did something about it. And, with the help of a local sponsor, it was - out with the old... and in with the new.

Laura Parkin: "My brother likes the vibration and when he feels the side of the car he can feel the vibrations and he likes the beat of the music."

Laura is as athletic as her older brother. He is her unofficial coach and most ardent supporter, making sure she attends all her training sessions. However, sharing a lift with her big brother means she has to fit in with his schedule and Terence is a man with a disciplined routine. Every day after swimming he visits his friend Rory, and every day after visiting Rory he goes to the same garage - via the same route - and buys the same ice cream. Some people would call it rigid, others focused. From either perspective, it's clear that commitment is central to his nature.

Graham: "I think whatever he sets his mind to do he can do. I've watched him and he's told me things. And I've stepped down and said, 'Hang on... you're going a bit fast here. You're jumping three steps instead of one", but he seems to get to that goal every time."

Neville: "He's just so determined. He wants to prove to the world that the deaf can do it."

In his spare time - what little there is - Terence exercises his imagination.

Terence: "I really enjoy art - especially painting animals like the Big Five - and I get a lot of pleasure playing video games."

There's no doubt that Terence is in a league of his own, but it takes extremely hard work. In addition to swimming 18 kilometres a day, he does between 400 to 800 sit-ups a day and then an hour in the gym, followed by some running to round off the session.

Whatever the competition, Terence puts his heart and soul into it. At last month's Midmar Mile in KwaZulu-Natal, he battled for the finish line with his friend and two-time winner Gareth Fowler. Neither had trained for the race, but swam as if he was going for Olympic gold. Terence finished in the fastest time ever recorded in the history of the race.

Terence: "We were racing together and I felt like saying to Gareth, 'Just stop now!', but I couldn't do that. He came past me and I realised I need to get moving because Gareth is with me. And I wanted to win, so I really had to motivate myself. I thought I was going to die but I kept on going. When we got to the shallow part I stood up and ran. And in front of me was the finish line. A short time later I collapsed... my legs were paralysed."

Les: The Olympics are soon, how do you feel about them?"

Terence: "We changed over to the New Year and I felt really excited because I realised 2000 means the Olympics. Some people have said 'Good luck!' ... I'm just going to do my best."

Derek in studio : "People often ask how Terence hears the gun at the start of the races. Well today races are usually started with a very loud buzzer and a bright strobe light, so Terence watches for the light and off he goes."

Living Loud: Terence Parkin - Olympian

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Terence Parkin, nicknamed the “Silent Torpedo,” has been called the Michael Phelps of the Deaflympics. He has competed for South Africa in Olympic and Deaflympic Games, World Cup and Pan American Competitions. Parkin is the Deaflympics’ most successful athlete since its inception in 1929; holding the record of the most medals - 34 in total. He has participated in 5 Deaflympics, in which he won 29 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze medals, plus South Africa won the bronze when he competed in the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne. He also earned an Olympic Medal for the 200m breaststroke in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Terence Parkin was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe on April 12, 1980. He was born deaf, but his parents, Neville and Bev didn’t realize he was deaf and it was not confirmed by doctors until he was 18 months old. His father Neville said, "We were both young when he was born and, being our first kid, we weren't really sure. His baby talk was normal, he laughed, he smiled - he was like a normal kid." There was a lack of educational options and support system for deaf children in Zimbabwe at that time, so the Parkins decided to move to Durban, South Africa when Terence was three years old. Another literal bump in the road for Parkin occurred when he was in a car accent as a child. He preserved and his scar and shaved head became one of his trademarks in swimming competitions. Parkin at the pool Parkin at the pool. (Photo Credit: Terence Parkin / Son Koerant Twitter)

He loved water and began swimming at age 12. He said, "I just love swimming, I enjoy it so much. I actually enjoy the feeling of getting tired from swimming.” But it was hard work and dedication that propelled Parkin to success. His coach, Graham Hill said, "I saw a kid who really wanted to get into swimming, but wasn't quite up to the standard of the other kids his age. He had more enthusiasm than the other kids. but just wasn't there. We used to laugh about it, we still do laugh about it. Terence was really slow when he came.

It was at the Midmar Mile held in South Africa, the world’s largest open water swimming event, that he first made his mark. “Starting in the second batch of swimmers in the 13-and-under age group, behind all the seeds, he powered through the field and, when the times had been adjusted, he had taken a stunning victory. It was astounding, but Parkin has been doing astounding things all his life.” 

Parkin was dedicated to training and would spend hours everyday swimming, cycling, and running. He said, “Success is 90% attitude and 10% training….with the right attitude you can do anything. The worst disability is (bad) attitude!”


Olympic Silver Medalist Terence Parkin Recognized As Global Brand Ambassador For Deaf and Blind

20 October, 2017

Parkin has recently been honored by the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation as Global Brand Ambassador for the Deaf and Blind. Parkin has used his role as an ambassador to travel across the world giving talks on various issues such as water safety and teaching children how to swim.

Parkin recently represented the Foundation at the 2017 Deaflympics in Turkey and met with Deaflympic officials. He has also been invited to speak on behalf of the Foundation in a number of countries including Pakistan, Russia, Australia, China and the Philippines.

Princess Charlene of Monaco was a swimmer on the South African National Team with Parkin when she was known as Charlene Wittstock. “Terence is an incredible athlete who has shown dedication and passion for his sport, and has never let any obstacles stand in his way on his path to achieve great things. We welcome him to the Foundation, where we know that he will continue to do excellent work,” Her Serene Highness said.

Terence Parkin is raising funds for Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation

February 2018

Renowned athlete and Olympic Medalist Terence Parkin is taking on an incredible test of stamina and strength in an effort to raise money for the Deaf Children's Learn to Swim and Water Safety Programme. 

Parkin himself was born deaf and overcame his personal challenges to become the most celebrated Deaflympic athlete in the world and a silver medal winner in the 2000 Summer Olympics. His natural talents as a swimmer and his passionate advocacy for young deaf athletes led to the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation recently naming him as one of their Ambassadors. He travels across the world giving talks on issues around water safety, preventing drowning fatalities and coaching children on how to swim. 

Parkin intends to do a 5 day, 723km mountain bike cycle tour from Johannesburg to Midmar, where he will do a 13km swim. He will then do a 33km run and end off with a 124km, 3 day Dusi canoe marathon. It’s an enormous challenge to his ability as an athlete but he feels up for the test, in the name of a worthy cause.

“I want to help children in SA to reach their full potential and grow into healthy adults,” Parkin says of his cause. “Swimming has been an incredible positive influence in my life and I want children with hearing difficulties and other challenges to experience something similar. Who knows, there may be more Olympic medalists out there in SA that we can reach through this initiative!”

Terence Parkin, princesse Charlene, prince Albert and Gareth Wittstock