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This Deaf Athlete Says: 'Losing My Hearing Has Given Me A Positive Outlook on Life'

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For the past five weeks we at Charity Miles have been sharing deeply personal stories of recovery, ingenuity and courage from our community. Here's the latest one:

Today we're featuring David Tolstyka, a member of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 2017. He was a competitive swimmer for 10 years (ages 8-18) and during his time as a swimmer, he was able to go to the World Deaf Swimming Championship in Coimbra, Portugal with the 2011 United States National Deaf Swimming Team. He won a silver medal in the 4x100 medley relay. "I was not born deaf but lost my hearing at age 15 and it has been somewhat difficult falling in love with sports again," David said. "But when I do triathlons, it is not about hearing; it is about going. Losing my hearing has given me a positive outlook on life because I learned you can take something so negative and allow positive things to come from it."

What is your greatest accomplishment as of late?

Recently, I raced my first triathlon as a collegiate athlete in Katy, Texas where I finished 4th in the men's collegiate division. I was so grateful to be able to compete with the Texas A&M Zebras (TAMU Triathlon team) and am excited to see with continued training what I might be capable of.

How did you achieve it?

The race started and I focused on what was before me right then and not what everyone else around me was doing. I achieved it by racing my own race. I knew that I had physically trained enough and so I used this knowledge and my newfound passion to disregard the pain and just keep going.

What motivates you to make the world a better place?

I feel that my recent deafness has given me an opportunity to create a bridge between the hearing and deaf community. In my career as a future engineer, I want to help to further bridge this gap between employees and employers by going through my experience and communicating to see what would work best for everyone. On the athletic side of this, I am attempting to prove that disabilities are not a hinderance when you put your mind and soul into what you do.

What do you do to stay healthy and fit?

I try to work out at least once a day and vary the workouts between swimming, biking, running and weight lifting. With the background of a swimmer, swimming is of course my favorite followed very closely by biking. I read often and watch what I eat (as much as a college freshman athlete can!) When I am tired or sore, I always try to remember my goals and why I want to do what I do.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

"Don't be afraid to get the help you need." -Marcus Titus. During a time when I was very embarrassed to ask for help with schooling because I wasn't able to hear many of my teachers, it stood out because you can't be embarrassed by something like that. You need to be proud of what makes you who you are. You can't put yourself down for something that makes you different.

What is your favorite aspect of using Charity Miles?

I like cycling with Charity Miles because I know a lot of people with disabilities who benefit from the money I raise through the various charities available. I really like StandUpToCancer, AutismSpeaks, Special Olympics, and Habitat for Humanity (because I've been blessed in the past to work with many of the volunteers of this organization).

Who do you exercise for, and why?

I'm not sure. I always exercised because I like it and because I like showing what I can do and proving what I can do. I guess, in a way, I exercise for myself to really stay healthy and to show that I am not disabled. I also exercise for those who may be in a position like me and because of it, hesitant to make a start. I want to show them that success is possible!

To hear more stories from the Charity Miles community read our Spotlight On series.

Aneya Fernando is the Social Media Editor for Charity Miles. She is also a writer and producer.