That’s what Patrick Sluyter, who was born deaf, hopes to get from spectators as he pedals for cycling glory this summer.
Sluyter, a 34-year-old Riverside resident, aims to fulfill his lifelong dream of competing at the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria July 26 to Aug. 4.
Sluyter is one of five athletes selected to participate on the U.S. deaf cycling team at the games. He is training to race in four road cycling events and one mountain bike contest.
The Colorado native is trying to raise enough money to pay for his trip.
He has collected a little more than $4,000 of the $6,000 needed to cover airfare, hotel, transportation and other expenses.
“Deaflympic athletes are struggling financially because the U.S. Olympic Commission does not fund us,” Sluyter wrote in an email. “We the athletes are required to pay our way. I hope people realize that we are not treated equally (like in) the Olympics or Paralympics where they get endorsements and a full ride to the world games.”
Born in Wheatridge, Colo., Sluyter was raised by a deaf mom who got him hooked on skiing, snowboarding, cycling and backpacking.
After graduating from high school, he moved to Vail, Colo., and cycled in the mountains every summer until he was 25. His deaf daughter, 8-year-old Winter, was born while he was attending Arizona State University studying business and recreation management. He moved to Riverside five years ago to provide better educational opportunities for his daughter at California School for the Deaf in Riverside.
Sluyter also has a 2-year-old deaf son, Ansel. He lives with a domestic partner, Nicolette, a fourth-grade teacher at California School for the Deaf.
“The idea of being Mr. Mom has given me the most awesome rare opportunity of being father to my children, the chance to grasp on the experience of raising children and fatherhood,” he explained.
Sluyter said being a father is important because his dad left when he was 4.
“I cannot imagine doing so to my kids,” he said. “I love my kids to death and would not trade this experience for anything else.”
Sluyter said he includes his kids in his training, pulling them in bicycle trailers.
“Participating in Deaflympics is important to show my kids they can do anything they want to do,” he wrote. “It is important to promote healthier lifestyles by riding bicycles.”
He also wants to demonstrate to the local cycling community the need to make races more accessible to deaf and disabled athletes.
Sluyter’s cycling career took a detour in March 2010, when he was hit by a car while training for the World Deaf Cycling Championships in Quebec, Canada. He underwent emergency knee surgery following the accident in the La Sierra area of Riverside.
He said the recovery process was the toughest battle he ever faced.
“I was determined to get back on the saddle and race again, and I did,” he said. “To regain whole of the motion back in my leg, building the strength back and to be able to race again was one long and hard process.”
Sluyter said he has been soliciting donations for the Deaflympics from cycling enthusiasts at local races.
“The support from the public really means a lot to me and I believe in giving back to the community,” he said.
Sluyter’s cycling dreams do not end with the Deaflympics. His next goal is participating in the summer 2014 Tour Divide, a mountain biking race spanning the length of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to the Mexican border.
“I love the freedom and stress relief I get from cycling,” he said. “I also love the community within the cycling world. It is one awesome place to belong to.”
To contribute to Sluyter’s fundraising campaign, visit http://www.gofundme.com/PkSluyterDeaflympics