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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Mary Free Bed hosts 24th annual Wheelchair Tennis Tournament

Young wheelchair athletes on a tennis court.
Kylie Ambu
WGVU Public Media
Athletes come to play at Mary Free Bed's Wheelchair Tennis Tournament

Around 60 athletes, young and old, participated in the 2021 Midwest Wheelchair Tennis Championship over the weekend in Grand Rapids.

The event ran July 9 to July 11 at MVP Athletic Club's Crahen branch and featured more than 150 matches. Along with the traditional tournament, attendees could also take part in special events throughout the weekend, such as an "Up/Down" session, where wheelchair athletes will play social with able-bodied athletes and a kid's wheelchair tennis clinic.

14-year-old Xander Frost was among the more than 40 competitors in the championship tournament. He said the weekend-long event was great practice for improving his skills, as he hopes to make his high school team this school year. The soon-to-be freshman said his school doesn't offer adaptive sports, and he's excited to bring a unique perspective as a wheelchair athlete.

"Tennis is one of the few sports that you can play up down kind of why it’s the perfect sport for me," he explained, "...I have a very different play style than an upright player, seeing things in a slightly different way."

Athletes like Frost competed in coed divisions, playing for more than $5,000 in prize money. Jeovani Pantoja, Sports Coordinator for Mary Free Bed's Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports said the United States Tennis Association also donated incentives.

"USTA donated scholarship money for us to give to players to offset travel expenses, food, etc." Pantoja said.

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