Editor's note: Columbus State University tennis player Laura Chapman, a 2010 Hardaway High School graduate, is on Team USA in the 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is deaf in her right ear and has 50 percent hearing in her left ear, which is increased to 85 percent with a hearing aid. This is the second of her periodic reports from her trip.
SOFIA, Bulgaria --
Opening Ceremony was today! It was held in the national football stadium. We took a group picture in front of the stadium in our Team USA uniforms. Even though I don't know 90% of the USA athletes representing America, I strongly feel that we are all a big family, supporting and fighting for each other.
This is why the Opening Ceremony felt so close and connected for me, not necessarily the presentation and entertainment at the ceremony but the group picture, the uniforms and sitting together as a team. I just feel we are all in this together, wanting to win for our country and team, but it's something none of us has to explain to each other; we all just feel it.
I enjoyed seeing all the other different countries in their uniforms during the ceremony. The stands in the stadium were alive and very colorful.
I played my first doubles and mix doubles matches today with my partners, Emily and Brad! Emily and I played two girls from China. Brad and I played a team from India.
(Chapman won both matches: 6-1, 6-1 in women's doubles and 6-0, 6-0 in mixed doubles.)
Later in the afternoon, we went to support the USA Beach Volleyball Team. I've never seen live beach volleyball before. Our guys team is good! It was cool to support another sport from my USA "family". Just supporting the brothers of the family today. The funniest thing about going to the beach volleyball game was that there was music playing in the background, of course that's pointless because this is the deaflympics and none of the players could hear it. Haha.
Columbus State women's tennis player Laura Chapman swept a pair of doubles matches on Saturday playing in the women's and mixed doubles tournament at the 2013 Deaflympics held in Sofia, Bulgaria.
So Daniel and Emily and I all ate Chinese at the airport, traveling to Sofia, and we each opened a fortune cookie. Mine said "Many new friends will soon be attracted to your friendly and charming ways." Little did I know this fortune cookie was actually telling the truth.
Today, I watched some of the other players from other countries play and supported them during their matches. I feel that in the small amount of time I have been in Sofia, I have made a little network of friends. I guess my "friendly and charming ways" have made an impact.
I ran into one of the Chinese girls that I played against on Saturday and asked in sign language how her singles match went. She signed to me that she lost. I showed her a sad face and signed I'm sorry back to her. Later, in the afternoon, she walked up to me and pointed to her hotel and signed she was leaving. I was guessing she was leaving to return home. I signed goodbye and gave her a hug. When I gave her the hug, I felt a genuine need for affection from her. I know it is rough to travel so far to lose both matches and return home defeated.
As I went to release myself from the hug, she didn't let go of me for another 3 seconds. I felt from the way she gripped hold of me, she was desperate for some type of love or care; and to me, that made me happy she accepted it from me. I know God used me to reach out to her, and, in a situation like that, I'm thankful my friendliness was attractive.
To read the first installment of Laura Chapman's postcards from Bulgaria, plus the Ledger-Enquirer's June 30 Sunday Living feature that tells her background story, click on this article for the link at www.ledger-enquirer.com.