Athletes compete in Truckee on way to Beijing
World-class wheelchair tennis is rolling into Truckee this weekend.
Starting today (Friday) and running through Sunday, the 22nd annual Tahoe Donner International Wheelchair Tennis Sectional Championship will be held at the Tahoe Donner Club. Athletes will vie for points toward the U.S. Open Championship in San Diego, and the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
“It’s a pretty incredible event,” said tournament director Robbie McClendon. “They are tremendous athletes.”
McClendon said about 60 athletes will compete, arriving in Truckee from all over the world. Competitors will include residents of Canada, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Germany Chile, Mexico, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
The tournament’s founder, Bonni Sue Hickson, said this year’s tourney has attracted a record number of open-class women players. McClendon attributed the sport’s draw to how well tennis lends itself to athletes in wheelchairs.
“Wheelchair tennis is a pretty large sport; you don’t really see wheelchair baseball,” McClendon said. “It’s a great sport for them because they can basically play as normally as an able player could.”
Hickson agreed that tennis is a better fit for athletes in wheelchairs than other sports.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing sports; it’s not like you need a team like in basketball,” she said, adding that being in a wheelchair adds to the sport. “It’s like two sports in one; you get the maneuvering in the chair, and the game and skill of the sport.”
Athletes use special, quick-turning wheelchairs, and a two-bounce rule allows them more time to get to the ball, McClendon said.
Eric “Dyno” Daniels was a Truckee-Tahoe resident from 1989 to 1995, when he was paralyzed in an accident. He lived in the area again from 1997 to 2000, and will be among this year’s competitors.
Part of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, Daniels says he was frustrated when he tried adaptive skiing, but found a new niche in wheelchair tennis, winning the U.S. Open in both singles and doubles in 2003.
“I was always an athlete, and tennis was kind of like skiing ” you versus somebody else ” not a team sport,” Daniels said. “The hard work you put in is what you get out.”
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