Kutcka bowling in the Deaflympics. Photo by Henri Grau/USADSF

Kutcka bowling in the Deaflympics. Photo by Henri Grau/USADSF

Associate Professor in Deaf Studies Jennifer Kutcka pursued her childhood passion at this year’s 22nd Summer Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria. The self-taught athlete was asked to represent the United States on the Deaflympics Bowling Team following tryouts in August of 2012.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” says Kutcka, who enjoyed meeting bowlers from different countries.

Admittedly nervous the night before her first event, Kutcka relied on the support of her husband, Joey, who was back in Granger, Ind.

“He assured me [through FaceTime] that I would do well and recited Philippians 4:13 to calm my nerves,” she says. It worked! Kutcka finished eighth out of 65 individually, and helped the team achieve a placement of ninth overall.

Bowling has been somewhat of a family affair for Kutcka, who joined a league at the age of 7 after watching her mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles bowl. She took a break from bowling when she started participating in other sports at Indiana School for the Deaf, but picked it up again after she got married in 2000.

“I have never had any formal coaching for bowling,” says Kutcka. “And as a Deaf person, I haven’t even had the benefit of picking up terms, techniques or tips by overhearing other bowlers talk. I’ve learned on my own by observing others and by doing it.”

Kutcka has been involved in many leagues in the St. Joseph and Elkhart County area. In fact, it was at a Deaf Bowling Tournament in California five years ago that Kutcka first met the coach of the Deaflympic Bowling Team. He told her that she had to have an average in the 170s for three years to try out for the team. Kutcka averaged in the 150s, but she began focusing her technique in the hopes of joining the team.

“I am so blessed that God has given me a talent that is enabling me to participate in an Olympic experience, says Kutcka. “On the bowling alley, I feel normal like anyone else.”

Kutcka is currently training and fundraising for the Deaf World Bowling Championship, which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2015.