The Uniting Foundation contributes towards the development of wheelchair tennis

In support of the organization of people with disabilities and their friends Apeirons, the Uniting Foundation contributes towards the development of wheelchair tennis. The donated funds will be transferred to the organization “Tenisa skola – TS”, who are ensuring the training process of Latvian wheelchair tennis players and coordinating the players’ participation in tournaments organized by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

This year, the Latvian wheelchair tennis family are celebrating 12 years in sports – this activity was introduced in our country in 2012 by tennis player and coach Terēza Stenclava. Only a year after wheelchair tennis started in Latvia, ITF ratings already had Latvian names, and, in 2015, the Latvian team participated in their first World Championship European qualifiers in Turkey. Latvia was the first among the Baltic states to participate in the championship with a men’s and a women’s team. In total, Latvian teams have participated in five events of this scale.

The largest ever Latvian wheelchair tennis event took place this year, from March 13 to 17, as our representatives had the honor of hosting the European qualifiers stage of the World Championship. In this tournament, the Latvian women’s team reached the semi-finals, which is the highest achievement in Latvian wheelchair tennis history.

‘We are grateful to the Uniting Foundation for their donation, an important contribution towards organizing general physical fitness sessions and practical tennis training, renting courts and paying coaches. Access to training is crucial in preparing our athletes for a high level of performance in international tournaments. The next tournament for Latvian representatives will be in Poland, and further plans include Turkey. We truly hope that our junior athlete will be able to participate in the Grand Slam Roland Garros and that we will be able to join our Diāna Nikiforova at the Paralympics in Paris,’ says Terēza Stenclava, establisher of wheelchair tennis in Latvia and chairperson of the board of the TS Tennis School.

 For her contributions in establishing and developing the wheelchair tennis movement in Latvia, Terēza Stenclava has received the annual Latvian Tennis Association award For the Development of Wheelchair Tennis (2014) and was nominated for the Pride of Latvia Award (2014). The coach’s tireless work has also been recognized globally – in 2019, the International Tennis Federation awarded the Latvian pioneer of wheelchair tennis with their ITF UNIQLO Spirits Award Runner up.

‘The Uniting Foundation are pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to this cause and to promote access to training for our wheelchair tennis players. As we care for people with limited mobility, we are certain that their life quality often suffers due to lack of environmental accessibility. It is important to find tools so that athletes in wheelchairs can train and participate in tournaments. We know that physical activities help people with limited mobility find their place in society, and they are especially important to promote not only physical fitness, but also mental well-being. We wish to express our special gratitude to Latvian wheelchair tennis players for their efforts in representing Latvia abroad,’ points out Elīna Škļara, Executive Director of the Foundation.

Wheelchair tennis was introduced in 1976 in the USA by Brad Parks and Jeff Minnenbraker, and it reached Europe in 1982, as they started playing it in France. Over the following years, the sport gained recognition, and it was first presented at the Seoul Summer Paralympics in 1988. Wheelchair tennis was included as an official Paralympic sport at the Barcelona Summer Paralympics (1992). The first wheelchair tennis Grand Slam was held in Australia in 2002, on the same courts as the classic tennis tournament. Wheelchair tournaments are now part of all Grand Slam tournaments – the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open.

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