JODIE OUNSLEY: The Power of Kindness

An exclusive chat with Jodie Ounsley – the former professional rugby player who many of us know as the Gladiator Fury 

© BBC / James Stack / © Hungry Bear Media Ltd

When she burst onto our screens on Gladiators, one thing was instantly noticeable about Jodie Ounsley – her cochlear implant. “I had an option to choose my colour,” she explains. “I chose white. It’s very out there, but I’ve got really comfortable with it. Obviously I still struggle day to day being deaf, but I embrace it now.” 

With flashes of blue added to her implant (and lots of shiny lycra), Jodie was transformed into Fury, the first deaf Gladiator. Powerful and strong, kind and funny, Fury became a fan favourite.

WORLD’S FIRST 

Before Gladiators, Yorkshirewoman Jodie enjoyed success in athletics, jiu-jitsu, and the World Coal Carrying Championships. She played rugby professionally for Exeter Chiefs, was the first deaf female player to play for a senior England side, and the world’s first deaf female rugby sevens international. 

© BBC / James Stack / © Hungry Bear Media Ltd

Being from a sporty family, she was keen to try rugby, but was warned away from contact sports. Wearing a head guard to protect her implant, Jodie first took to the pitch aged 15 and admits: “I was hooked. By the time I was 18, I was a professional with the England Women’s Sevens, travelling the world. It’s been a whirlwind!” 

And then, of course, there’s Gladiators. “I didn’t believe I’d ever get an opportunity like this,” she admits. Jodie loved how the programme brought families together to watch TV, and that it presented a different image of “strong, muscular females, because there’s a lot of pressure on young girls to look like these stunning model-like girls they see on TV,” she says. 

ADRENALINE RUSH 

Jodie’s favourite game was The Edge – a chase between contender and Gladiator, on a platform eight metres in the air. “I’m not scared of heights, but it was the adrenaline and the atmosphere in the arena,” she reveals, “The Edge is such an exciting game to play.”

© BBC / Hungry Bear Media Ltd

Jodie’s become a role model for the deaf community. “It’s amazing to be in this position,” she admits. “Growing up, I never knew anyone who was deaf, never mind seeing them in the media.” 

She’s using her experiences of deafness to help raise awareness, especially around the issue of hearing fatigue. “It’s long days of concentrating and lipreading,” Jodie tells us. “By the end of the day, you’re absolutely frazzled.” She kindly suggests: “In a situation where you may be struggling, you’re missing things, or you can’t quite do it yourself,” she explains, “there’s no shame or embarrassment in asking for help. I’d say be honest; push yourself to be vulnerable. So much good will come from doing that.” 

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