(AP) — For American swimmer Marcus Titus, being deaf is more advantage than disability.
At least when it's time to get in the water.
"It helps me stay in my own world, helps me focus on what I need to do," the 25-year-old Titus said at the Pan American Games after winning a bronze medal. "Being deaf allows me to block all the noise that could be a distraction when I'm preparing to swim."
Titus won his medal in the 100-meter breaststroke in Guadalajara, earning his first ever medal it an international competition.
"What a great experience," Titus said. "I felt great in the water. Having a big crowd helped and motivated me to swim fast."
Titus was chosen the best swimmer at the deaf world championships in Portugal in August, winning five gold, two silver and a bronze. But the Pan Am Games are his debut in a major competition which is not restricted to people with disabilities.
He hopes it will be the first of many, and already has his mind set on the 2012 London Olympics.
"My dream and my goal is to get to the Olympics," he said. "Being here at the Pan American Games will definitely help me prepare for the (Olympic) trials."
Titus, of Tucson, Ariz., failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but he feels this time his chances have improved significantly. He said competing at a meet such as the Pan Am Games allows him to get an idea of where he is and what he needs to do to prepare for the trials in June 2012.
"My performance right now is at a good place," he said. "I just have to work on my technique. If I can fix my technique, I can be on the 2012 Olympic team."
Titus said he needs to improve his timing and his kickstroke so he can reduce his drag in the water and improve his times.
"I already know what I need to do. I'm pretty confident I'll get better in time for the trials," he said.
Titus was born deaf and uses a hearing aid to communicate with others. He can speak, but needs an interpreter to help him understand others better. The interpreter accompanied him to his news conference after winning the bronze medal on Monday, relaying reporters' questions to him.
When he's on the starting platform, Titus watches a strobe light to know when to dive into the pool because he can't hear the starting gun.
Still, Titus said he never lets his inability to hear slow him down, and making the Olympic team would give him the ultimate confirmation.
"I know I have the strength to do it," Titus said. "It's going to come down to who touches the wall first."
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