29 May 2013

Wheelchair tennis wins at Spirit of Sport Awards

News Article

Photo: SportAccordITF Executive Vice President Juan Margets, who collected the Spirit of Sport Award on behalf of the ITF

The ITF's Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund (WTDF) has today been named as the winning project in the SportAccord Spirit of Sport Awards 2013, which were presented during the 11th annual SportAccord Convention in St Petersburg, Russia.

Announced in April as one of six projects shortlisted for the Spirit of Sport Awards 2013, the Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund was the only one of the six international projects shortlisted to come under the theme of Persons with Disabilities..

From the six projects shortlisted, three were selected to go forward to today's ceremony in St Petersburg, wtih the WTDF being named the overall winner.

ITF Executive Vice President Juan Margets, who collected the Spirit of Sport Award on behalf of the ITF, said: "The ITF is delighted to accept the SportAccord Spirit of Sport Award on behalf of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund.

"We are proud of the work that we do to help disabled children and adults in developing countries lead active and rewarding lives. Through 2012, 35 different countries have been involved in the programme with 11 sending representatives to the London 2012 Paralympics. Thanks to everyone at SportAccord for this important award."

ITF Wheelchair Tennis Manager Manager Mark Bullock said:“The Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund is fundamental to our work around the world and I would like to thank SportAccord for recognising our work as we continue to grow the game and keep wheelchair tennis thriving as one of the most popular of all international disability sports.

“We are delighted to accept this Spirit of Sport Award not only for the ITF, but also on behalf of our Wheelchair Tennis Programme Partner the Johan Cruyff Foundation, whose funding over the last 10 years has enabled to undertake 35 different projects, Motivation, whose low cost tennis wheelchairs are crucial to helping us get more people playing, and all the coaches and player ambassadors who have supported the various projects.”

The WTDF aims to establish long-lasting wheelchair tennis programmes, providing disabled children and adults with opportunities to enjoy an active and rewarding life. The programmes all help to grow wheelchair tennis predominately in developing nations where the disabled population is often excluded or segregated from society.

Through the WTDF the ITF works with specific countries over a two-year period, sending out different ITF experts and player ambassadors to these countries and providing equipment for their respective programmes. The ITF representatives hold clinics, meet with local partners, set up development plans and talk to the media.

Programmes are always run with the national associations so that after the two year period they can be self-sustainable and continue running and be part of the ITF’s developmental work. Partnerships are developed between different relevant local and national organisations or associations with the ITF and the main WTDF programme partner, the Johan Cruyff Foundation.

By 2012, 35 projects had been initiated in countries such as Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Colombia and Bolivia. Projects are still continuing to grow in these countries today, with increased participation and activity. Eleven of the 35 countries in which the WTDF had initiated projects by December 2012 had representatives who competed in the Paralympic Tennis Event at London 2012.

Integration between disabled and able-bodied participants is at the heart of all the projects, while women and children are of particular importance to the WTDF. The ITF tries to ensure that in all activity at least 25 per cent of participants are female.

SportAccord is the umbrella organisation for 107 international sports federations and organisations.

Its mission is to unite and support the common interests of the sports movement.

Activities include the organisation of multi-sports games (SportAccord World Combat Games, World Beach Games, World Artistic Games, World Mind Games, World Urban Games); doping-free sport; sports’ social/environmental responsibility and sports’ integrity; the International Federations recognition process; the Online Community platform, the World Sport Index, the online video portal The Sports Hub as well as several other strategic initiatives, all developed and implemented on behalf, and to the benefit, of SportAccord’s members.

Watch a video of the Johan Cruyff Foundation's visit to South Africa with Esther Vergeer to celebrate 10 years of the Cruyff Foundation's involvment with the Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund