Superstar, English Rugby Union World Cup winner, Ben Cohen MBE talks to British Deaf News about his deafness, meeting The Queen and why he’ll always be an activist at heart

I’m clinically Deaf. I’ve had tinnitus – ringing in my ear – my whole life, but it doesn’t both me. It’s part of my life. 

I miss things in conversations. In fact I missed the entire 2003 World Rugby Cup speeches! But I’ve never let my deafness restrict me. It ended up making me one of the top rated point scorers because I never heard players calling out! That meant I never passed the ball!

After all, rugby was an elite sport and I didn’t go to a private school but I worked extra hard and never let my disability get in the way.

I knocked on a lot of doors and forced people to notice me. You simply have to work your ass off – there’s no other way of putting it. It’s about what you’re willing to sacrifice. I missed out on going out with my friends and other things growing up, but I did it so I could learn more and grow to be better.

I always challenge myself to be better. Performing on Strictly Come Dancing was a great experience. I’ve never danced before, as I can’t hear the beats, but my partner, Kristina (Rihanoff) did a fantastic job of directing me about the floor and I never held back.

Getting my MBE was a great honour. It was lovely meeting The Queen, not just with my fellow teammates but also being in the room with people who have served their country. It was also great to talk to Elton John. He just called me out of the blue one day and couldn’t believe how bad my hearing was. He often does random acts of kindness. He left such an impression on me and inspired me to help others too.

I started The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation to combat homophobia and bullying – because I want to make a difference in people’s lives.

These days, I’m working on my Foundation, and there is also a planned Hollywood movie about my life due to be released next year to coincide with the 2015 World Rugby Cup. 

I don’t look at issues in terms of deaf, hearing, black, white, gay or straight. I think that everyone should get a fair go, to achieve their full potential.

In regards to recent negative media, don’t believe everything you read. I know the actual truth and I’m here to make a difference.

My greatest personal achievement are definitely my two kids – they are my world – they are my world cup.

Pic credit: Bret Grafton

Published in BDN December 2014 issue