Beyond the Game: Olympic hopeful, deaf speed skater Michael Hubbs

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WEST ALLIS (WITI) -- Green Bay Packers football players and Milwaukee Brewers baseball players learn to tune out the screaming fans and focus on the game -- but speed skaters don't really have that challenge -- especially one Olympic hopeful.

The path of a long track speed skater appears easy. It is smooth and without visible obstacles, but looking ahead on the ice is different than going through life as Michael Hubbs. If he is selected for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, he will have done some overcoming.

Hubbs grew up in Texas and competed from the age of 12 until he was 17, when he switched to swimming. After a 10-year break, he returned to the sport, and now at 30, he's knocking on the door of the Olympic trials.

Hubbs originally had a chance to train for an Olympic bid before going off-ice for a decade.

"My dad made the decision for our family that I should be in a school for the deaf, and I told my dad, but I want to train for the Olympics. This is where my heart is -- my love, my passion. I don't want to lose it. But he said no," Hubbs said.

Hubbs has had about an 80% hearing loss from birth. He is seeking to become the first deaf U.S. Olympic speed skater in history, and at an age that's past retirement for most of the others on the ice.

"I've always told myself I'm here to finish it. I didn't finish it when I was younger, and I'm here to finish it now," Hubbs said.

Speed skating is a solitary sport, but Hubbs knows he can't succeed alone. He relies on sign-language interpreter Sara Miller for help with interviews and works with Milwaukee-based coaches Kreg Greer and Tony Goskowicz for help with his skating.

There is a rich Olympic tradition with the Pettit Center. Many of the greatest skaters in American history have come through the facility. Hubbs can already see his name up on the banner for the 2014 team, and if he has it his way, that won't be the end of it.

"I'm 30. I'm making the Olympic team this year. After that, I am going to try out again in 2018, and then again in 2022. After 2022 I think then I'll retire," Hubbs said.

If that is indeed the way things go, Hubbs will undoubtedly be one of the most inspiration athletes in Olympic history.

"In my mind, when I think of this, it feels so good to me that I could inspire others to work hard and not give up, regardless of your age. It doesn't matter the life you lived or went through," Hubbs said.

Hubbs is aiming for the Olympic trials, which start two days after Christmas in Salt Lake City. The 2014 Winter Games are in Sochi, Russia.

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