As a way to celebrate the Parapan Am Games taking place in the Province of Ontario from August 7-15, 2015, the U.S. Consulate General Toronto programmed wheelchair tennis star, David Wagner, as a SportsUnited Sports Envoy to teach youth with disabilities the art of playing wheelchair tennis. Paralyzed from the mid-chest down with only 30% mobility in his hands, David Wagner is classified as a quadriplegic and is ranked as the #1 quad tennis player in the world. David has and continues to compete at the international level, including in three Paralympics and is training to play in the Paralympics for Rio 2016. On August 7-8, David was able to touch the lives of over a hundred and fifty youth in wheelchair tennis clinics at KidsAbility in Guelph and Variety Village in Scarborough. The Consulate collaborated with KidsAbility, Variety Village, and two local tennis organizations the Scarborough Tennis Club and the Royal Tennis Club to provide sport wheelchairs, racquets, foam balls, and tennis balls to clinic participants.
On August 7, 2015, David spent the day at Variety Village in Scarborough teaching clinics that included wheelchair mobility drills as well as ball passing activities. During the morning, David was the lead torch bearer for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games Torch lapping the indoor track carrying the torch in front of all hundreds of people as one of four stops that day before the opening ceremonies of the Parapan Am Games. Among the high profile guests that attended the clinics and torch relay was U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman and U.S. Consul General, Jim Dickmeyer. Following the relay, Ambassador Heyman and Consul General Dickmeyer joined in the clinic engaging in conversation with the children as well as sitting in wheelchairs amongst the children, listening to David’s instructions.
Following a busy day in Scarborough, David made his journey to KidsAbility in Guelph. There David was greeted to an intimate setting that allowed him more individualized time with the dozen participants. David gave a presentation on his life, which included photos of his life from able-bodied to gold medal winning paraplegic tennis player. Assisted by Wheelchair Tennis Player Cyndy McLean and several local tennis coaches, David then followed with a series of skill building clinics working with their standing siblings and parents as well. Following the clinics, David hosted a coach’s program where he taught them how to train their disabled students as well understand the increased benefits of wheelchair sports that include increased cognition and enhanced academic performance.
The U.S. Consulate in Toronto looks forward to continuing work on parasport development, disability rights and accessibility, as well as engaging in inclusive activities that allow for disabled people to become community leaders and world class athletes. David Wagner’s visit was a testament of the advancements and continued work necessary for the disabled community. For more information on the SportsUnited Sports Envoy program, please visit here.