An international wheelchair tennis tournament brings athletes to the Capital City to compete

Photo provided by staff.

POSTED: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 2:11pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 2:46pm

A major international tennis tournament is going on right now in Baton Rouge, but on these courts, athletes are on two wheels.

This isn't just tennis. This is David Wagner's life.

"It's great. It's not an intimidating sport at all," David said.

David played tennis in college until an accident took his life for an unexpected turn.

"I had an accident in 1995 where I broke my neck, and that paralyzed me from the chest down as a quadriplegic," David said.

But that didn't stop him.

"I fell right back in love with the sport and couldn't get enough of it," David said.

The same goes for Shane Theriot. He has been an athlete most of his life.

"As a child, I played sports all the way through high school, and then I was injured at 19 years old," Shane said. "The pipe broke loose and fell, and that's how my accident happened. It swung down like a golf club and hit me in the back."

Before he even got out of the hospital, shane was ready to get back to it. So he turned to basketball.

"When basketball was kind of going through the down-spiral, that's when Carlos came into my life," Shane said. "So it really interested me to do something with him because he had the knowledge."

"He's great. I've been working with him for many years. He's one of our best athletes in town. He's also a role model for a lot of the young kids trying to learn the sport. He's an inspiration to all of us," said Carlos Roldan, Shane's coach.

Now Shane and David are competing here, at the Cajun Classic Wheelchair Tennis Tournament against athletes from all over the world.

Even though the athletes make it look easy, it's not.

"Number one, the chair doesn't go sideways. So they've had to create new mobility patterns to simulate able-bodied movements. The second thing is, that they are holding the racket and trying to swinging and push at the same time. That's not easy," said Dan James, National Manager of Wheelchair Tennis.

These men and women may all be competing against each other, but Shane said they are all just one big family.

"It's important in more than one way. Just dealing with the same guys dealing with the same things you're dealing with is crucial to have in some sort of quality of life," Shane said.

The tournament will be going on through Sunday at the YMCA off Perkins Road. Baton Rouge has one of the largest wheelchair tennis associations in the country.

If you want to learn more about it, you can go to the Highland Road Park next Saturday from 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.

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Two corrections: It's Highland Road Park, not Highroad, and we won't be out there this Saturday. We'll be at the Paula Manship YMCA where the tournament is being held.

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