Sports

Wheelchair athlete excelling at tennis

Kelowna wheelchair athlete Patrick Ryan has zoomed to the top of the rankings in his sport in just a few years, winning three gold medals at the Western Canada Games in Kamloops. - Contributed
Kelowna wheelchair athlete Patrick Ryan has zoomed to the top of the rankings in his sport in just a few years, winning three gold medals at the Western Canada Games in Kamloops.
— image credit: Contributed

After less than four years of training, Patrick Ryan is already being considered an expert wheelchair tennis player.

Ryan went undefeated to earn three gold medals at the 2011 Western Canadian Summer Games, which were held in Kamloops from Aug. 5 - 14. One of the medals came from his doubles play, which was something that was brand new for Ryan.

“I was shell-shocked; that was my first team tennis environment,” said Ryan.

Ryan, who suffered a workplace accident in 2000, has been an athlete his whole life. He began playing tennis five years ago; however, a wrist injury in 2008 set his progress back a couple of years.

“The first two years I was just learning the sport. Then when I came back (from injury) I went to a couple of tournaments to see what they were like. I got noticed and was approached by the provincial team coach,” said Ryan.

“I developed my game last year and ended up getting invited to represent BC at summer games.”

He represented the province well. After defeating Saskatchewan in both singles and doubles play, Ryan cruised past tournament-favourite Manitoba and then finished the job by besting Alberta.

“Team BC never lost a match. We swept the entire thing. It was awesome.”

But Ryan doesn’t think his job will be as easy at nationals.

“That’s a much higher caliber of tennis. There will be the top players right across the country.

“The eastern provinces have a lot stronger wheelchair programs there. The national coach works over there as well.”

Ryan won’t be a complete rookie at the event: Last year he made it to the finals in the A division at nationals. This year, his goal is to win the A division.

“As long as I place well in that showing, then next year I’m hoping to make the national team.”

One of Ryan’s biggest challenges is properly preparing for the event. Ryan has struggled to find competition to help him improve his own game.

“Tennis isn’t the easiest sport to play, sitting in a chair. People just get frustrated. So I have zero high-level competition for me to play with.”

Ryan purchased a ball machine to practice his hitting; however, his coach said that he needed to get game experience.

Ryan said he is interested in finding two-point (intermediate) able-bodied tennis players to compete against. He said that the players shouldn’t be completely new to the sport, but he isn’t looking for able-bodied experts either.

“I need to start hitting and keep my game going heading into nationals, because that’s where I faltered last year.”

Those who are interested in competing against Ryan and helping him train can reach him via phone: 250-491-9838, or e-mail: pryan@growingleadership.com.

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