AUSTIN (KXAN) — Amid the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and buzz surrounding Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show, an American Sign Language performance from interpreter Justina Miles dazzled and captured the attention of millions.
Last Sunday, Miles became the first female deaf performer to interpret at the Super Bowl halftime show. In addition to covering Rihanna’s setlist, the 20 year old signed the pregame performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sung by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph.
But near two years before taking the stage at the Super Bowl, Miles trained in Austin for the Deaflympics, the equivalent to the summer hearing Olympics. She joined her fellow track and field athletes preparing for the 2022 Deaflympics at the Texas School for the Deaf.
The Deaflympics differ from the Special Olympics and Paralympics, which are created for athletes with different intellectual and physical abilities. Instead, competitors in the Deaflympics are athletes who are on par with hearing Olympians physically but use non-auditory starting signals during competitions.
At the time KXAN interviewed Miles, she was fresh out of high school and was preparing for her first appearance in the 2022 Deaflympics, held in Brazil. She ended up leaving that competition with a silver medal in the women’s 4×100 relay — solidifying a goal she told KXAN she hoped to achieve.
“Really my big goal, my big focus is, of course, to get a medal,” she said at the time. “I mean, I’m really excited for the relays, because I’m a big team player. I’ve never been an individual player. There are individual sports for people who are so fast, but the relay, that’s the part that I’m with, is such a team.”
In the nearly two years since, Miles has made a name for herself in the ASL interpretation world, with hundreds of thousands of followers watching her performances on TikTok and Instagram.
“I really had the community’s support, so many deaf people tuned in and that’s why this was successful,” Miles wrote in an Instagram post following the Super Bowl. “Just imagine what barriers we can break with true inclusivity and accessibility, where they don’t have to do extra work accommodating themselves and simply just join in with the rest of the world. We just want to smile, laugh, dance, cook, etc. WITH YALL. And likewise, y’all should want that WITH US.”