Gallaudet student set for Winter Deaflympics

By Jen Bondeson
The Gazette
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lauren Benedict spent most of her winter break a bit differently than most of her classmates at Gallaudet University.

Benedict, 19, who grew up in Germantown and lives on Gallaudet's Northeast Washington campus, spent three weeks snowboarding in Park City, Utah, as she trained to represent the United States in the 2011 Winter Deaflympics, which are scheduled for Feb. 18-27 in Slovakia.

She will be one of 40 deaf or hard-of-hearing athletes to represent the nation, competing in the alpine racing division against snowboarders from at least seven countries.

Benedict is the only Montgomery County resident who will compete in the games, according to Chris Kaftan, a spokesman for the U.S. Winter Deaflympics Team.

In Utah, Benedict spent her time practicing on the slopes.

"I don't mind," she said through an American Sign Language interpreter. "It's what I love to do."

After snowboarding for about three years, Benedict qualified for the Deaflympic games in February during a 2010 United States of America Snowboard Association competition at Park City, Utah.

But no matter how good she gets at snowboarding, Benedict said her dad always will beat her on skis.

Benedict's mother, Beth, and father, Dwight, also are deaf. They raised Lauren and her sister, Rachel, 21, on the slopes.

The family's obsession with snow sports is not obvious on the first floor of their house in Germantown - but the basement is a dead giveaway.

There, Dwight Benedict has crafted a family ski lodge. Shelves hold years' worth of skiing and snowboarding equipment. Snowboards and skis hang from the walls, trophies fill an overhead shelf and photos of the sisters wearing puffy jackets and ski goggles deck the halls.

Benedict even crafted a bench from old skis, which greets visitors at the foot of the basement stairs.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2011 The Washington Post Company