PROFILE OF A CHAMPION: Marika's Story
"I have always looked upon life as a gift and I have vowed to live each day to its fullest. I take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way; take part in every unique experience, and make sure that those around me have a smile on their face. I was born in Budapest Hungary during a period of social unrest. My family escaped from the country to provide a better life for me and for my sisters, but during our escape, I was exposed to a bombing and lost my hearing. However, I was fortunate to have parents who refused to see me as a poor little Deaf child and they treated me like my sisters and had high expectations of me. Since they refused to let my Deafness be an obstacle, I too refused to ever let it define who I was or what I could do. To this day, even though I face discrimination I will not let it deter me.
"Communication was difficult for me. My parents spoke Hungarian. We arrived in America where English was spoken. As a Deaf child I was taught American Sign Language. It could have been a challenge for me. But I found an outlet and a way of expressing myself. I immersed myself in sports and I excelled.
"I always enjoyed playing games, sports and enjoying a competitive challenge. Some people compete in various sports or games because they have an inner burning to defeat their opponents or challengers; it is what drives them. I have, however, always felt a love for THE challenge, to better myself emotionally and physically, and to how show everyone how teamwork can bring you joy or selfishness can bring you defeat. I am open to losing and a good sport because it reminds my inner child that there is always room for improvement. To congratulate a challenger who has bested me with a smile is not easy for some to do, but for me, I smile inside because they deserved it.
"Not only have I competed in sports for the love of the games and for myself, I have competed competitively. I was involved in sports at the Michigan School for the Deaf where I won numerous awards; in the Deaf Olympics (an international competition) in my younger years, Oakland County’s senior games and now the Michigan Senior Olympics. I have been working and training and competing my whole life. I also volunteer my time with numerous charities. I have been given so much in life and its imperative that I give back.
"Here’s a little more about me. I am currently an instructor at Macomb Community College where I have taught the advanced American Sign Language Classes for over 20 years. I was the first certified Deaf substance abuse counselor in the State of Michigan where I practiced for over two decades. I was a gubernatorial appointee to both the Michigan Board of Mental Health and the Division on Deafness where I served for eight years. Additionally I have held many board positions in organizations of and for Deaf people. I am a current Board member of Deaf Community Advocacy Network (DEAF C.A.N.!) and the Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (DWAS), an active volunteer and Committee Chair for “Relay for Life” and an advisor for the American Sign Language Club at Macomb Community College. I am the proud mother of three children, the grandmother of three. In my spare time, I travel abroad and have visited over 20 foreign countries.
"I wanted to share with you a recent milestone in my life – a personal goal I set for myself a few years ago. When I was a child, a Deaf child, my mother always encouraged me by saying “Mari(k)a, you can do anything you set your mind to do”. She always supported my next challenge and said “go for it, do your best and keep trying, that is all I expect”. Throughout my teen-age years, high school, college and after, I received various medals in Karate, Fencing, Javelin and other sports. About 5 years ago, I set a goal for myself to reach 100 medals in total and promised both my Father and Mother that I would strive for that goal. To be quite honest, I never really thought it was possible as I’m not a spring chicken anymore ;-)
"The really nice effect of continuing with these various sports and activities was the support from my own family, my husband and children, who kept telling me to go for it and keep trying….How strange is it see your child sign to you that they are proud of you and supported you through all your struggles and challenges? Inside, it feels good and often I wonder, who is the parent now? Aren’t I supposed to be telling them I am proud? My inner soul is smiling.
"This update is not to brag about how many medals I have won, or to make a place in history….it is to remind my friends and community to find the activities that make you smile and to challenge yourself always to become a better person. I am so happy that the little child inside me still has that flame which burns with a competitive edge; it keeps my soul young and happy. Marika
Marika displaying her 100 Senior Olympic Medals
"Marika won her first senior Olympic medal in 1997. This year she medaled in Shot Put, Javelin, Discus, 5K Cycling, Women’s Doubles Pickleball, Women’s Singles Pickleball, and 100M Dash bringing her medal total to 100. In the past MSO games she has also medaled in 1500m Race Walk, Long Jump and Basketball Free Throw. We all have a story to tell, this is Marika’s and it can be inspiration and encouragement to others – seniors and younger athletes." Marilyn Holladay, USA Pickleball Association.