GR8WHEELIES AND CELEBS CELEBRATED WHEELCHAIR TENNIS AT ABILITY CHALLENGE
The much anticipated Ability Challenge, in which top players and celebrities pitted themselves against South Africa's wheelchair superstars, like Lucas Sithole, South African number one and world number two quad player, KG Montjane, South Africa's top female wheelchair player, and Evans Maripa, top-ranked South African male player ended up a great success on Tuesday 8 April 2014.
The Ability Challenge sponsored by Airports Company of South Africa and hosted by Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) was staged at the iThembelihe Lsen school in Primrose, Germiston. The iThembelihe Lsen school is one of the development schools earmarked by Wheelchair Tennis South Africa to introduce and develop the game.
TV and radio anchor, Robert Marawa hosted the day as MC and a festive vibe of music, dance and top class tennis entertained the four hundred strong crowd which included former First Lady, Zanele Mbeki.
Four teams, namely "Expresso Brews", "e-Flava", "Power of 5" and "Ten-Spiration" battled for title honours in the challenge. Each team consisted of a celebrity, a wheelchair tennis player, and two able bodied players.
The winning team was "Ten-Spiration" the SABC Morning Live team who had anchor Vaylen Kirtley, wheelchair tennis star Leon Els, Danie Visser former world number one doubles player and tennis professional Michelle Sammons as part of their team. "Ten-Spiration" beat the team of Expresso Brews ( Adrian Hogan - presenter, Holger Losch – professional coach, Evans Maripa and professional player Madrie Le Roux 4-3 in the thrilling final.
Morning Live presenter, Vaylen Kirtley said she was happy to have won the title with her team and was honoured to be part of the event. "What a great initiative and hats off to Airports Company South Africa and Wheelchair Tennis South Africa for putting the challenge together. This sets the tone for the forthcoming Gauteng and SA Open events which are sure to be a great success."
This was the third Ability challenge, historically linked to Disability Day but now associated with the upcoming Airports Company South Africa wheelchair tennis series of tournament; the Gauteng Open (23-27 April, Benoni Lake) and SA Open (29 April-3 May, Ellis Park, Johannesburg). Both tournaments have attracted a top international and local entry and are part of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
South African Davis Cup captain, John-Laffnie de Jager, part of the "Power of 5" team said he felt honoured to be part of such a special day. "Wheelchair tennis in our country is a shining example of what a sporting code needs to do to encourage interest and participation. The atmosphere was unbelievable and what great fun was had by all. I'll be back if invited again."
DJ Milkshake of the "Power of 5" team said he had a TOTAL blast! "that was really wicked, what a cool day and I am real blessed to be part of it! Damn just a pity my team didn't smack it."
Former ATP professional and Davis Cup player, Jeff Coetzee part of the "e Flava" team said that he was inspired by the challenge. "Tennis is such a fun loving sport, the game of a life time and the game of love. Today we had tons of fun, saw players and fans of all ages and everyone just loved the day. This is so good for the game .. what tennis needs is more Ability Challenges."
Members of South Africa's Fed Cup, Natalie Grandin, Madrie Le Roux, Natasha Fourouclas and Michelle Sammons also participated in the Challenge.
"Disabled sport is globally becoming more recognized and Airports Company South Africa have earmarked wheelchair tennis as the disability code they are committed to supporting. "We were excited and delighted to have exposed more people to wheelchair tennis and to our top wheelchair players at the Ability Challenge. We believe through the event more people appreciated the skills and performances of these players by watching them in action at iThembelihe Lsen School" said Unathi Batyashe of Airports Company South Africa.