Fulton tackles athletics, academics with determination
Hearing impairment doesn’t slow down X-Women rugby player
Her eyes widen and a smile crosses Claudia Fulton’s face when she’s asked what she loves the most about rugby.
“Making a big hit – it pumps everyone up,” said the sophomore flanker with the perennial powerhouse St. F.X. X-Women after a recent practice.
“Going on a run is fun, but making a big hit,” she says, her smile getting even bigger, “gets everyone fired up and makes everyone work harder.”
Make no mistake - Fulton “loves the contact.”
The Aylesford native tackles academics with equal ferocity. She is an Academic All-Canadian who sports a 91 per cent average in her program.
“I asked my friends, and they said I should go into engineering,” Fulton said, noting they knew she was “really strong in school, especially math and science.”
That peer advice came during a class at West Kings District High School while she was filling out an admission application for a recruiter from Acadia.
“It has been the right one, so far,” Fulton said of her post-secondary field of study.
The only drawback is that she will have to leave St. F.X. – a place she adores – after next year in order to complete her engineering degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“That’s the sad part,” Fulton said.
Fulton excels on the field and in the classroom while living with progressive central neural hearing loss.
“It is already getting worse,” she said.
Because of the hereditary condition – her mother, grandfather, aunt and cousin also have it – Fulton has worn hearing aids since she was five.
“You have got to deal with it,” she said, noting that making jokes is one of her approaches.
When she started playing, Fulton tried to wear her hearing aids, but they were too easily potentially damaged because of the physicality of the sport. But she can’t hear without them, which has led to some interesting moments on the field.
“There’s a lot of yelling involved,” Fulton said, with a laugh.
At times, because she cannot hear anything, she has continued to play after the whistle has blown.
“My teammates are like ‘chill out, she can’t hear,’” Fulton said of how they deal with upset opponents.
Once they know, her opponents have been great, making note of her jersey number in case it happened again.
Passion for sports Growing up in the Annapolis Valley, the eldest of Sheila and Dan Fulton’s three children, she has always had a “passion” for all sports - “everything that I could (play).” Fulton rattles off a list of the sports she’s tried, including rugby, baseball, soccer, track and field, softball, volleyball and basketball.
Fulton, along with her siblings Emma and Riley, who are in Grade 11 and 9 respectively, were on a combined five provincial teams this summer.
Off to Antigonish
When it was time to select a university, her “first choice” was UNB, but that changed after her visit to the St. F.X. campus.
“I just really loved it – and here I am. I wouldn’t change it – it is the best decision that I have ever made,” she added.
The student-athlete also took advice from her provincial coach and tried out for the X-Women. Fulton not only made the cut with rugby XWomen, but she also suited up for the St. F.X. basketball team in the second half of her freshman season.
Fulton started training camp with the basketball team, but the new X-Women coaching staff thought she “might be too far behind” once she tried to make the transition after the rugby season.
When she heads to Halifax to continue her studies, Fulton will focus on mechanical engineering at Dal.
“Sometimes, I think I know exactly what I am going to do and then I think of something else and say ‘maybe I want to do that,’” Fulton said when asked about her career aspirations after graduation.
As for developing technology “to try to fix (her hearing loss),” she added, with a smile, “I might as well try.”
Noting there is current technology, such as cochlear implants, Fulton said her target is creating “something smaller.”
“Something that is not as noticeable,” she added.
Before that happens, Fulton’s more immediate focus is helping the X-Women capture the fifth national championship in program history.
Having the opportunity to win the crown in her backyard - Acadia is set to host the U Sports championship tournament in early November - is “pretty cool.
“Hopefully, it will happen.”
Sheila and Dan Fulton often make the drive from the Annapolis Valley to Antigonish to watch their daughter, Claudia, play for the St. F.X. X-Women rugby team.
Claudia Fulton, a native of Aylesford, is a sophomore flanker with the St. F.X. X-Women rugby team, a perennial power in U Sports competition.