Noah: Hello! Welcome to USADSF Spotlight with Noah. I am Noah Valencia. I am excited to interview Jerry Wilding today. I am very honored to interview him today. Because he was involved in the 1957 Deaflympics in Milan, Italy. He is maybe the only athlete we know who continues to stand strong since his participation in 1957 so I am very excited to ask about his experience in 1957 that was so long ago. Wow.
Noah: I will ask you a few questions regarding the 1957 Deaflympics. Do you still remember it?
Jerry: Ok. Oh yes, I remember it, a long time ago.
Noah: Which events were you involved with?
Jerry: I was involved with hurdles and triple jump.
Noah: Two events.
Jerry: In the high hurdles event, I placed fourth place. In the 400 meters event, I made it in the heat and placed third but the top two went into the finals, so I did not make it into the finals. Now, for the triple jump event, I had never done a triple jump so that was my first experience. Doing my best, my highest score was 42’.06”. I came in sixth place. During that time, in the United States of America, we did not have that event so I set a new American Record for the triple jump. My record lasted for eight years until someone broke my record of 42 feet and 06 inches which was my best. Those three events were those I participated in.
Noah: That was your first time doing the triple jump, at the Deaflympics?
Jerry: Correct. I trained for it at Milan and experienced so many errors. Actually there were three of us from America who tried for it and I got the best result.
Noah: There was no internet back then in 1957, how were you selected for the USA Team for Deaflympics, what was the process like at that time?
Jerry: Ok. I had a coach named Tom Berg. You know him? He's a legend.
Noah: Yes, I do.
Jerry: He was the coach at Idaho School for the Deaf (ISD) where I attended and graduated from. I went to Gallaudet, during my freshman year, ISD had a crisis where there was a problem with the superintendent. As a result of this chaos, all those who were in support of removing the superintendent were fired. Tom Berg was one of them. He transferred to Gallaudet College where I trained under him once again. It was six of us from Gallaudet who went to the Deaflympics. Out of six athletes, there were two prep students while four of us were undergraduate students. Being selected for the Deaflympics was all because of Tom Berg and Art Kruger as well, both of them had great relationships. I was lucky to have Tom Berg in my life.
Noah: You have to thank Tom Berg.
IMAGE: Jerry Wilding in white jacket with the logo of USA/ AAAD on his chest. He is wearing glasses and a watch on his wrist, he is signing. Three athletes stand by his sides as they watch him signing, they all wear blue jackets with USA/AAAD logos.
Noah: What was your best memory of that experience, what was the best part?
Jerry: That trip, wow, that was my first time going to Europe. I stayed there for five weeks.
Noah: Four or five?
Jerry: Five. There was a lot of traveling involved, a little too much because it was hard to stay in training because there was so much to see in Europe. We were a bit out of shape. When it came to the games, it was difficult because there were so many errors that we made. Tom Berg was the coach along with one coach from Texas, I forgot his name. They both were friends and classmates from Gallaudet, I believe. There were some challenges and difficulties but in the next four years, it was better organized. I traveled a lot, I know that was not a I shouldn’t travel a lot. But it was a great experience. There were so many countries in Europe that we visited that I lost count.
Noah: So the best experience was the traveling part?
Jerry: Oh yes, I have a long story about it. It was a wonderful experience.
Image: The 1957 USA Deaf Team wearing USA jumpsuits.
Noah: I am curious to ask what would your favorite part of the Deaflympics be, as an athlete and as a coach? A favorite memory?
Jerry: I can’t beat my 1957 Deaflympics experience because it was my first time, it was a rookie experience for me but then after that I gained more experience. I think 1957 was the best one including the traveling part. I experienced Paris, Rome, and many other famous cities. Wow, it was educational but when you talk about track, that was a different story. So yes, the first one was the best one. I enjoyed them all.
Noah: You attended Deaflympics as an athlete at one time or did you also participate in another year as an athlete?
Jerry: Only 1957. Then after that, I went as a coach. 5 times… no, 6 times as coach. I was always an assistant coach but in the last one, I became head coach.
Noah: Was the experience of being a coach and an athlete different?
Jerry: Oh yes, the huge difference was the responsibility part. In track, I was always the first one to arrive while athletes came later after assigning them their events with times. I had to coordinate athletes to their times of events and in their positions. In the end, I recorded their results and be the last person to leave. So it was a lot of work being the first to arrive and last person to leave. I remember that experience of staying there all day. It was a lot of work.
Noah: Fun? I am sure it was.
Jerry: Especially during my last year where I gave all my time and attention on track.
Noah: I am sure it was fun, yes?
Jerry: Oh yes, it was a good experience, a wonderful one.
Image: Jerry is in an USA outfit holding the USA flag.
Noah: Wow. He shared so many stories and it's so easy to be fascinated by it. I want to thank Jerry Wilding for sharing his experience about 1957 and for his many coaching careers that he had until 1997.
Noah: Until then, so long!