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The State Newspaper Highlights Wheelchair Tennis

May 24, 2010 02:20 PM

Bradley Mungo’s agile spins and surges mask the true effort required to quickly move him around the tennis court. But the beads of sweat on his forehead and the muscle mass in his upper body offer more adequate evidence the sport’s demands.

Since losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident eight years ago, Mungo has required a prosthetic leg to get around, but that hasn’t dampened his passion for athletic competition. After seven years playing wheelchair basketball, he’s taken up tennis during the past year and hopes to one day compete in the United States Tennis Association Wheelchair Tennis Open division.

Much of the grant money has gone towards the purchase of special wheelchairs made for playing tennis. The Richland County Recreation Commission held the second of two Wheelchair Tennis Clinics May 22 at the Richland County Tennis Center. The clinics were scheduled after the commission received a $10,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association to promote physical activity for injured veterans and others with physical disabilities.

Mungo, of Columbia, is part of a push by the Richland County Recreation Commission to promote more athletic competition among people with disabilities.

The commission recently received a $10,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association to provide more physical activity for injured service members and others with physical disabilities. It was one of 12 agencies selected from 126 that applied nationally for the grants.

Locally, the money has been used primarily to buy specialty wheelchairs and other equipment needed for wheelchair tennis.

“Serving our country can be hard at times, but coming home injured is even harder,” David Stringer of the Recreation Commission said.

Stringer, who has used a wheelchair since a teenage diving accident, has led local efforts to get more funding for wheelchair sports. He said while the Recreation Commission’s focus is the military, the goal is to offer more structured opportunities for anyone with a physical disability.

In wheelchair tennis, the standard rules of the game apply, but players have two bounces to return the ball rather than one.

Mungo (who served eight years in the Army but whose injury was not sustained during service) now plays about four time a week with his regular partner, Chris Pearson.

He said because of the extra challenges presented in getting to the ball, strategy is particularly important. “Getting it over (the net) is not a problem, but you can’t (always) power it,” he said.

Mungo and Pearson both used the specially-designed tennis wheelchairs that incorporate wider-than-normal wheel angles to facilitate quicker turns and a longer “stabilizer” wheel in the back to prevent tipping.

The chairs cost about $2,7000 each. “We’re constantly trying to raise funds to buy more equipment,” Stringer said.

Stringer said two participants in the May 8 clinic were first-time players and adapted well to the initial training.

“They were excited and enthusiastic about learning,” he said.

Mungo said he understands the apprehension some might face when taking on such a challenge. But he said he’s glad he did.

“He (David) had been trying to get me to play (for some time),” Mungo said. “Once I did, I was in love with it.”

From The State