Wheelchair tennis project to be launched

US ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar (left) and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu juggle tennis balls during SportCares' Love Singapore tennis clinic. SportCares will launch a wheelchair tennis project for underprivileged youth and
US ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar (left) and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu juggle tennis balls during SportCares' Love Singapore tennis clinic. SportCares will launch a wheelchair tennis project for underprivileged youth and adults.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A 10-week wheelchair tennis pilot project for youth and adults with disabilities will be launched shortly after the Dec 3-9 Asean Para Games in Singapore.

Organised by the SportCares Foundation, in partnership with the United States Embassy in Singapore and Porsche Asia Pacific, the programme aims to foster a spirit of inclusiveness and provide an opportunity for more people to live better through sport.

Working with local coach Sjaiful Sjahrin, six to 10 youths and adults with disabilities will be learning the basics of wheelchair tennis. SportCares' long-term goal is to develop a wheelchair tennis programme for children and youth from schools, special needs groups and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs).

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu announced the initiative on the sidelines of a SportCares Love Singapore tennis clinic involving 40 children at the OCBC Arena yesterday.

World No. 3 doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands, in town to compete at the WTA Finals Singapore, led the session, which was also attended by the US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar.

On the upcoming wheelchair tennis project, Ms Fu said: "Through social initiatives like the SportCares movement, we hope to have a more inclusive society where everyone has the chance to experience and even excel in sport.

"This new initiative by SportCares will reach out to even more Singaporeans with disabilities, and inspire them to live better through sport."

The wheelchairs for the project will be purchased through funds donated by the US Embassy in Singapore. Costs related to coaching, transportation and other programme support will be covered by Porsche Asia Pacific.

"The average person may not expect that someone with disabilities would want to play sport," said wheelchair tennis player Derek Yzelman, 59. "But playing wheelchair tennis and doing wheelchair racing has given me an immense amount of satisfaction, self-esteem and fitness over the years. I may have been struck down with polio when I was two years old but I have refused to stay down."

Since its launch in late 2012, SportCares has worked with partners in the community and corporate sectors to organise programmes that have touched the lives of more than 8,000 underprivileged children and youths.

Sanjay Nair

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2015, with the headline 'Wheelchair tennis project to be launched'. Print Edition | Subscribe