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Top U.S. Wheelchair Athletes to Compete in Beijing

July 17, 2008 04:11 PM

The USTA, the governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S., announced the nine players who will represent the United States and compete in the 2008 Paralympic Games, September 6-17 in Beijing, China.  The U.S. will be one of 34 countries represented among the 112 wheelchair tennis competitors vying for gold in the men’s, women’s and the quad events.

U.S. head coach Dan James announced the men’s team which will be led by: Lee Hinson of Jacksonville, Fla., Paul Moran of Northfield, Ill., Jon Rydberg of Oakdale, Minn., and Steve Welch of Arlington, Texas.  The women’s team will feature: Beth Arnoult of Paia, Hawaii, and Kaitlyn Verfuerth of Port Washington, Wis.  The quad team will be: Brent Poppen of Paso Robles, Calif., Nick Taylor of Wichita, Kan., and David Wagner of Hillsboro, Ore.  The team selection was based on ITF World Rankings from May 19, 2008.

James, of Oakdale, Minn., will be joined by assistant coach Jason Hartnett of Irvine, Calif., as well as team leader David Schobel of White Plains, N.Y., and Bill Taylor of Wichita, Kan., who will be the personal care assistant.

This is the second time at the Paralympic Games that the quad division will be featured.  In 2004, the quad team of David Wagner and Nick Taylor won the inaugural gold medal in doubles.  World No. 1 David Wagner will also look to capture the gold in singles after claiming silver in 2004.

“The Paralympic Games provide yet another world stage for our athletes to showcase their skills and tell their stories,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Director and COO, USTA.  “We are proud to have these athletes representing the U.S. and we hope that they will inspire the next generation of American wheelchair champions and recreational players.”

Wheelchair tennis was introduced to the Paralympic program in 1988 as an exhibition event before becoming a full medal sport at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.  Paralympic tennis is an open competition, eligible to those athletes with a mobility-related disability, and all competitors must compete in a wheelchair.  More than 4,000 elite athletes with a physical disability from around the world are expected to compete in the 2008 Paralympic Games.

The USTA was officially designated by the USOC as the national governing body for the Paralympic sport of wheelchair tennis in June 2002, becoming the first Olympic national governing body to earn this recognition.  As the national governing body for wheelchair tennis, the USTA manages wheelchair tennis in the United States, including the sanctioning of tournaments, overseeing wheelchair rankings, creating and managing a High Performance program for developing elite disabled athletes, and selecting teams to compete internationally for the United States.






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