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South African wheelchair tennis ace Marshall Marsh attains a degree in Human Movement Science

South African wheelchair tennis ace Marshall Marsh ranked 7 in South Africa and in the top 200 globally in the men’s division has obtained a degree in Human Movement Science at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

Marsh, aged 26, who hails from Port Elizabeth crossed the stage on Monday during the graduation ceremony and emerged to be the University’s first disabled student (double amputee) to receive a degree in Human Movement Science.

As a two-month old baby he lost not only his mother in a tragic house fire but his legs were so badly burnt, they were amputated. However, what could been seen as pure tragedy, opened up a world of opportunity for Marshall. Last year Marshall Marsh was ranked 59 in the world but due to his studies he was not available to participate in most tournaments.

“I am the first graduate in my family and I am grateful that God has spared my grandmother to see this day, she can see how all her sacrifice has paid off,” says Marshall.

His grandmother, Margaret, who was a domestic worker at the time, quit her job to raise Marshall and his older brother Marvin, who were left orphaned by the fire.

Marshall had a full bursary to study Human Movement Science at the University and praises the institution, particularly the Disability Unit, for all the help he received throughout his period of study.

In 2006 Marshall attended Northern Lights School in Cotswold where he participated in numerous sports like powerlifting, wheelchair basketball and swimming. Teacher and tennis coach Eugene Stallenberg saw his potential and encouraged him to try out for wheelchair tennis.

“I fell in love with wheelchair tennis because of the opportunities it gave me. I’ve travelled to Korea, Sri Lanka, Russia, England and the Netherlands – countries I would never have visited otherwise,” says the Uitenhage resident. 

“I am very competitive and now with more time on my hands I will be able to work towards my goal of being number one.”

Marshall currently trains for at least two and a half hours, six days a week to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

“It’s been a great experience training Marshall,  I appreciate his compassion for others, his outlook on life is inspiring, it is not easy being a disabled person in South Africa but Marshall is something special, NMMU can be proud,” says, his coach for the last  five years, Hennie De Klerk.

Hennie accredited Marshall’s tennis success to NMMU’s tennis court upgrade which is now completely wheelchair friendly.

“From the toilets to the entrance gates we have had an R1m upgrade,” says Hennie.

Marshall and Hennie also run two to four wheelchair tennis clinics annually, where 20-30 high school pupils are coached.

Marshall even met his wife Janine “on the court”, her cousin who also plays wheelchair tennis introduced them. They have two children four-year old Jamie-Lee and 5-month-old Janay.

“I want to train disabled people to become physically fit, I’d like to teach them how to play wheelchair tennis too. I want to show them it can be done,” says Marshall.

Wheelchair Tennis South Africa Director and performance coach, Holger Losch expressed his excitement, “Just ecstatic. As a coach I have seen Marshall play tennis, to see him reach his ultimate dream and all his hard work pay off, is just amazing. We could not be more proud of everything he has done”, said Losch.