Pinellas Park's Munir Muwwakkil, who is deaf, is a threat for a state title in discus.
By BOB PUTNAM
Published May 5, 2004
PINELLAS PARK - Munir Muwwakkil steps into the ring, spins and heaves the shot put high into the sky.
As he watches his throw, he yells something that sounds like "Ahhh!!" The 12-pound metal ball falls more than 50 feet away. His coach, Stacy Simmons, says nothing. He simply looks down at the dent in the dirt and gives a thumbs up.
Muwwakkil nods and smiles.
For the Pinellas Park senior, actions always speak louder than words.
He is one of 2-million Americans who hear nothing at all.
"I can see the crowd and the coaches and know when they are excited," Muwwakkil said through sign interpreter Judy Jaeger. "But I also know myself when I'm doing well by my throws."
This season Muwwakkil is throwing well enough to contend for a state title.
At last week's region meet, he tossed the shot put 50 feet, 2 inches and flung the discus 153-9 to qualify for the Class 4A state meet at Gainesville's Percy Beard Track Stadium on Saturday.
Muwwakkil's best chance of winning is in the discus. He finished sixth last year and is the county's only returning boys place-winner in 4A. His best throw this season is 161 feet, 4 inches, third-best in his classification.
"We're hoping at the state meet he's at his best," Simmons said. "It'll be tough for him. There are a lot of good throwers. But you never know who might come through. The thing about Munir is he throws with the competition and rises to the occasion."
At Tuesday's practice, Muwwakkil could not throw the discus because the field was occupied by the football team. So he worked on his shot put technique.
Simmons stood far away and critiqued each throw. He wanted Muwwakkil to use his legs as his source of power.
Simons pointed to his legs, bent and exploded into the air. Munir did not get the message.
That's when Jaeger stepped in.
Fingers flew through the air as she repeated what Simmons said.
"Act like you're squatting," Jaeger signed to Munir.
Munir made a circle with his index finger and thumb, a sign everyone knows.
Muwwakkil has adapted to high school and athletics thanks to his support system. Pinellas Park is the primary county high school for the deaf and hearing impaired. At all times, from practices to meets, an interpreter is present for him.
They help fill in what is lost in translation.
"I remember a few years ago his name was called over the loudspeakers at a meet," Jaeger said. "I said, "Munir they're calling your name.' He seemed stunned but excited."
This is Muwwakkil's last chance to see the crowd cheering. He also hopes to glance at Jaeger and watch her spell out his name along with the words "State champ.'
The language may be different, but the goals are still the same.