Deaf Water Polo Champion, Jamie-Lee Lewis
At the age of 24, Jamie-Lee Lewis has tried more sports than most have in a lifetime. In particular, her prowess at water sports has been impressive, earning her a spot on the Brisbane Barracudas Water Polo team, where she’s been a member for the past six years.
We chatted with Jamie-Lee Lewis about her love of water sports, how she manages to play without her cochlear implant and the highlights of her career so far.
You played many sports before turning your attention to water polo. What is it about this sport that caught your attention? And what is your favourite aspect of the game?
I’ve played all different kinds of sport, including touch football, tennis, netball, volleyball, athletics, soccer and golf. My mum suggested I try water polo; I was hesitant at first because I had no idea what it entailed and at the time I didn’t like trying new things! I ended up giving it a shot, and after playing for a year I got selected for the QLD team. That was when I became serious. I love it because it’s a rough sport, and the fitness required makes it challenging. I always look forward to training and games.
You used to do a lot of swimming. Why did you stop this activity?
I did enjoy swimming because you compete against yourself to improve your times. However, after a while I got bored just following the black line up and back. I moved to water polo because I missed playing a team sport.
You’ve played for the Barracudas for six years; what is the best part about playing for this club?
The Brisbane Barracudas National League Women’s team is like a family; we help each other, work as a team and have so much fun at training and on trips. That’s what I love about this team.
Did you have a backyard pool growing up? What are your fondest memories of it?
Yes, we did have a pool in our backyard. My fondest memories involve hanging out there with family and friends. And sometimes, after a hard training session or game of touch footy/netball/water polo, I would jump in the pool and recover.
You received a cochlear implant when you were four years old. How does your device impact on the way you play water polo and other sports? Do you wear it while playing? How do you find playing without your hearing?
In primary school, I had to wear headgear in touch footy and netball to protect my implant. Some kids from other schools would tease me about it but it didn’t stop me from playing. I don’t wear my implant when I play water polo, so I rely on my eyes to be able to play. I always say that my eyes are my ears. In the water, I have to watch the ball, the players and the referee. It can be very tiring!
What is your career highlight?
I have a few career highlights – just a few include making the U20s Australian Women’s Water Polo team and travelling to England, Spain, Greece, Italy and New Zealand to play; winning four out of six national league titles; winning Australian Water Polo Player of the Year with a Disability two years in a row; winning Female Deaf Sports Australian of the Year, and becoming the first deaf person to represent Australian water polo in a hearing sport.
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