Memories of triple World Deaf Games champion John Ooteman

  • Life Stories
New Zealand’s most acclaimed Deaf gold medallist, John Ooteman was a triple World Games for the Deaf champion (Koln 1981, Los Angeles 1985, Christchurch 1989). His story is told through the eyes of Elizabeth Hines, his Deaf sister.
  • Home
  • Videos
  • Memories of triple World Deaf Games champion John Ooteman

Three times Ooteman returned home to Manawatū from the World Games for the Deaf as a world champion in the 35-kilometre individual time trial. Elizabeth Hines, the Deaf sister of triple world champion John Ooteman, shares her memories of John.

John, christened Johannes (and Elizabeth) were both born in Clyde in Central Otago, where his hard-working Dutch father Jan was working on the Roxburgh Dam. The family moved to Feilding in the early 1960s so John and sister Elizabeth could attend St Dominic's School for the Deaf. There, they would watch the Dulux 6-day cycle race (Auckland to Wellington) pass by would pique his interest. He took up cycling as a 17 year old, joined the Palmerston North Cycling Club in about 1977 and was coached by his father, even though he wasn't a cyclist, and Frank Clavis, from Taranaki.

He was 21 when he competed at his and New Zealand's first Deaflympics, in Koln (Cologne), Germany in 1981, after much fundraising. In Cologne he headed off a Dane and Belgian in a time not broken until 2001. His strength was his stamina rather than speed. He didn't like being crowded by other riders so the road time trial event suited him admirably – no draughting, it was all done on his own. Four years later he again won gold by 30 seconds in 30 degree Celsius temperatures at Los Angeles, where an American interviewer asked him, through an interpreter, for the secret to his fitness. "I ride my bike," he said. He was also fifth in the 100km road race, closed out by European riders. Ooteman won his third gold at the 16th Games in Christchurch in 1989, where he had the honour of being the team flagbearer. In winning the time trial he was so dominant he overtook the rider who had started in front of him.

Sadly, he died on 17 January 2019, finally beaten by a short illness aged 58. His gold medals from the Deaflympics reside in pride of place in the family lounge in Feilding.

Reference number: