Proving 'deaf people can'
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
Conquering his fears has shown Brandon Johnson anything is possible in the pool.
Johnson, a sophomore at the Hawai'i School for the Deaf and Blind, is having a record-breaking year in the pool. He finished the 1-meter dive with 447.90 points at Saturday's O'ahu Interscholastic Association championships, breaking the record of 413.10 set in 1985 by Kaipo Fajardo. Two weeks ago, he set the OIA Eastern Division championship record with 447.95 points.
"I was kind of surprised. I knew about this (OIA) record that was a really old record and I thought maybe I could beat it," Johnson said through his coach and foster father Jeff Stabile, who also teaches at his school. They communicate through American Sign Language. "A lot of people think deaf people can't. That was one of the motivating factors, that deaf people can."
Johnson got involved in diving at age 11 through his then-foster mother and brother. His interest has wavered through the years, but there's a greater commitment to practices this season. Stabile said Johnson has gotten over his fears and been more willing to try new dives. Johnson has also learned harder dives and how to transfer his work on the 3-meter and 10-meter platform to the 1-meter.
"He's gotten confidence in himself," said Stabile, a former UCLA diver, who coached four-time state diving champion Aleia Monden of St. Andrew's. "When he started trying harder dives and realized they weren't all that hard, it was like wow, all that prep work has paid off."
Johnson has been working harder in preparation for this weekend's state championships at Kamehameha-Hawai'i, focusing on his dives and correcting his mistakes.
"I really, really want to get first place," Johnson said. "I told all my friends that my goal is to get first place at states, so now I'm working on that. I'm very, very serious, working really hard and focused right now."