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Deaf cyclist from Grand Junction lives life to the fullest

Brittany Markert
bmarkert@gjfreepress.com
John Klish, a Grand Junction resident, has loved mountain biking since he was 15. He bought his first mountain bike with his own hard-earned money working odd jobs as a teen.
Submitted photo |

MEDICAL SETBACKS

Throughout the years, John Klish sustained many injuries — including a hernia, plus a torn ACL and LCL. Then, in 2005, he encountered a weird journey where for three months his testicle would hurt him. Doctors struggled to find the source, until one determined he had testicular cancer. He had one testicle removed to stop the spreading and did three rounds of chemotherapy. When he was finished with chemo, they found a football-sized tumor in his back and removed it in spring 2006. He has been in remission ever since.

Birds chirping, alarms going off in the middle of the night, cars going down the street — all these sounds are taken for granted when someone can hear.

To John Klish, a Grand Junction resident, those sounds are close to nonexistent. And though Klish is deaf, he said he doesn’t let that stop him from living his dreams.



DISABILITY DOESN’T DEFINE HIM

Klish learned early on that being deaf wasn’t going to hold him back.



When he was younger, he played soccer until he graduated high school, on Grand Junction High School’s varsity team for four years.

“I was proud of that because it’s hard work,” Klish said.

Then during college, he decided to try Colorado State University’s cycling program since he enjoyed mountain biking from age 15.

Five years after college, his coach encouraged him to try road racing, as he saw potential in Klish.

Over the years since college he’s participated in multiple races, his most recent feat competing in the 2013 Deaflympics in Bulgaria representing USA. He was the only athlete to compete in all five cycling events, which included the 1,000-meter sprint, the time trial, a road race, mountain biking, and a point race. He placed fifth in the road race, fourth in the time trial (missing third by seven seconds), bronze in the 1,000-meter sprint and mountain biking, and a gold in the point race. Klish also plans to compete in the 2017 Deaflympics in Turkey.

His next race in Silver City, N.M., will be a five-stage road race —Tour of Gila — he added. Klish is currently a Catergory 3 racer, with hopes of upgrading to Category 2 after the race.

“It’s almost like being a professional road cyclist,” Klish said. “It’s going to be fast and hard.”

In his professional life, Klish recently founded Klishy, LLC, a consultant and motivational speaker business — to promote teamwork and communication.

Klish additionally founded DEAFlete as a way to inspire deaf athletes involved in competition. He promotes safety for all racers (not only those with hearing loss), especially those who may not be aware of surroundings during a race.

“It’s kind of a win-win situation for all,” Klish said. “It is also a way to help people with a disability to figure out what they need and build confidence.”

When he’s not competing or speaking, he helps out at LTR Sports — 2470 Patterson Road, #3, in Grand Junction — as a part-time bike mechanic and sales representative.

“I love it,” Klish said. “When I talk about bikes to my girlfriend, she falls sleep, and that’s my que to stop.”

LEARNING WASN’T A STRUGGLE

Since birth, Klish’s mother knew something was different about him. He was tested immediately and doctors discovered bi-lateral hearing loss.

Specialists told her to not even try to teach him to talk, and suggested Klish be put into an institution for the deaf. His mom didn’t believe in that philosophy, so she took matters into her own hands. She found a speech therapist to work with him at 3 months old.

She then found a school in Massachusetts — Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech — which specializes in educating deaf children. That’s where Klish learned to lip read. Students were not allowed to use sign language.

When he was 11, the Klish family returned to Grand Junction. He pushed himself to go to Holy Family Catholic, where he didn’t use interpreters and relied on his lip-reading skills — which gave him migraines from concentrating so hard.

He then went to Grand Junction High School where interpreters were provided, requiring him to learn sign language.

“Going to school and learning sign language; what was I thinking?” Klish said, laughing.

He graduated in 2000 and started his college career at Colorado School of Mines. He transfer to Colorado State University in Fort Collins because more services were available there for him. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2005.


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