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SIGNS OF THE TIMES : Float Heard the Cheers at Olympics Despite the Loss of His Hearing

July 20, 1985|JOHN WEYLER | Times Staff Writer

"It's been a hectic month," said Float, who just recently moved to Newport Beach. "It's been really rewarding, though.

"There are 2,500 athletes from 35 different countries here. At the Olympics, if you wanted to talk to a Chinese athlete, you had to find an interpreter who could speak both English and Chinese.

"Sign language isn't universal, but here we just make up signs to get our message across. There's a terrific sense of common goals and communication on a lot of levels. It helps you remember that people can talk to each other with facial expressions and body language, too."

Float, who has a contract with a hearing aid firm and is negotiating another endorsement with a hearing-aid battery company, has been the official spokesman for the World Games for the Deaf.

The picture of him on the victory stand at the Olympics, flashing the sign-language symbol for "I love you," is on all of the posters advertising the Deaf Games.

He made that gesture spontaneously, because "it was the first emotion I could express . . . a fist or a No. 1 sign didn't seem appropriate . . . I mean, at that moment, I was having a love affair with the whole world."

His Olympic success, and the gesture, have paid off, both monetarily and in even more satisfying terms.

Float instantly became a hero in the deaf community worldwide. And often during the last few weeks, he has been moved by the impact he has had on other lives.

"A father with his deaf son stopped me the other day," Float said, "and the father said he just wanted me to know that I was his son's hero.

"But, more than that, I hope I'm his inspiration. If I can be the reason one kid says, 'If he can do it, why can't I?' and he starts to believe in himself, well, that's an accomplishment that's difficult to measure.

"But I know it's more important than paying the rent."

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