(June 27, 2016) WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The United States Tennis Association (USTA) and U.S. national wheelchair tennis team coach Dan James today announced the eight players who will represent the United States in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sept. 9-16.
The U.S. will be one of 29 countries, represented by the 100 wheelchair tennis competitors from around the world, vying for gold in the men’s, women’s and quad events. The competition will take place at the Barra Tennis Center, the same venue used for the Rio 2016 Olympic tennis event.
“The USTA is extremely proud of the group of wheelchair tennis athletes who will represent the United States at this year’s Paralympic Games,” said Katrina Adams, USTA Chairman, CEO and President. “These athletes never stop to amaze me in all they can do within their sport. They truly embody the honor of being named a Paralympian. I’m looking forward to watching them compete as they look to claim gold.”
The men’s team will be led by Jon Rydberg (Woodbury, Minn.) and Steve Baldwin (San Diego).
The women’s team will feature Emmy Kaiser (Ft. Mitchell, Ky.), Dana Mathewson (San Diego) and Kaitlyn Verfuerth (Flagstaff, Ariz.).
The quad team, led by three-time doubles gold medalists David Wagner (Hillsboro, Ore.), and Nick Taylor (Wichita, Kan.), will also include second-time Paralympian Bryan Barten (Tucson, Ariz.). Wagner, who is currently the world No. 2 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, will be hoping to capture the illustrious gold medal in men’s quad singles at the Paralympics for the first time. Wagner won silver in singles at the Paralympics in 2004 and 2012.
Direct entries are based on ITF World Rankings from May 23, 2016. Similar to the wild-card rule at other tennis tournaments, the U.S. wheelchair tennis team has been granted Bipartite slots by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Bipartite slots allow the Paralympic event to allocate additional slots to countries competing in the events. Rydberg, Baldwin, Verfuerth and Barten were all granted Bipartite slots to compete in Rio.
Coach Dan James, of Seattle, will be assisted at this year’s Paralympics by assistant coach Jason Harnett, of Irvine, Calif., as well as team leader Emily Sandor, of New York.
This year’s Paralympic Games mark the seventh time wheelchair tennis will be part of the competition, and the fourth time the quad division will be included. The quad team of Wagner and Taylor won consecutive gold medals in doubles at the 2012 Games in London, 2008 Games in Beijing, and 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.
Wheelchair tennis was introduced to the Paralympic program in 1988 as an exhibition event before becoming a full medal sport at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Paralympic tennis is an open competition, eligible to those athletes with a mobility-related disability. All competitors must compete in a wheelchair. More than 4,200 elite athletes with physical disabilities from around the world are expected to compete in the 2016 Paralympic Games.
The USTA was officially designated by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) as the national governing body for the Paralympic sport of wheelchair tennis in June 2002, becoming the first Olympic national governing body to earn this recognition. As the national governing body for wheelchair tennis, the USTA manages wheelchair tennis in the United States, including the sanctioning of tournaments, overseeing wheelchair rankings, creating and managing a High Performance program for developing elite disabled athletes, and selecting teams to compete internationally for the United States.