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Issue 01

JODIE
OUNSLEY

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY MAIDMENT

WORDS BY VICTORIA McINTYRE

MAKE-UP & HAIR BY FAYE HARRIS HORSMAN

Jodie is a rugby player. She plays for Sale Sharks and is also a member of the England 7s team. An incredible athlete, she also happens to be profoundly deaf. 

Jodie has a cochlear implant that helps her hear, but she is heavily reliant on lip reading. Despite the risks and challenges of playing rugby with a cochlear implant, Jodie is a strong woman who will not be deterred from living her life to the fullest.

She talks to us about her story, her work to raise awareness of the deaf community and sports participation, and her hopes for the future.

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Tell us your story about your hearing and your journey to rugby.

It’s been a long journey! I was born profoundly deaf which means I have no hearing whatsoever in both ears, I’m completely deaf. When I was 13 months old, I got a cochlear implant fitted. It bypasses sound straight to my brain. I don’t understand the science, but it allows me to hear some sound. From there I had intense speech therapy every week. I went to mainstream school, which I struggled quite a lot with, but I always loved sport and getting stuck into PE. I was too aggressive with the boys, I just loved it. From a young age I always wanted to go to the Olympics. I don’t know why. I just remember watching the Olympics and thinking, ‘yeah, I want to be there.’ I didn’t know what sport but then rugby came into my life when I was around 15 years old. We weren’t a massive rugby family at the time. My dad had played and then my younger brother started playing and I always wanted to give it a go, but my mum and dad put me off because of my cochlear implant. Medical advice says that people with cochlear implants shouldn’t do any contact sport because of the the risks of the magnet dislodging. When I went to watch my brother play and train, I got so frustrated. I was like ‘how was it fair that he’s able to do that and I’m not allowed to do that?’ I carried on getting on mum and dad’s back saying ‘can you just let me try? Is there a way around it?’. We came across a scrum cap so they finally gave in and let me try a session thinking I would just do it once and forget about it. Five years later, I’m playing for England. Long story short, but yeah, it’s been a crazy ride.

Read Jodie's full interview in Issue 01 of Club71

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