Tennis Cambodia will launch the country’s first ever wheelchair tennis clinic later this year to build on the amazing results their Battambang grassroots wheelchair program, introduced a few months ago at La Paloma centre for the disabled, has been producing under the care of former WTA player Irene Reheberger Bescos.
The decision to strengthen the program and beef up the facilities available for the trainees follows a review trip made by Tennis Cambodia secretary-general Tep Rithivit in the company of head of junior development Mam Phalkun and head of marketing Mirella Magnoli two days ago.
“The first batch is training smoothly – the numbers are not big yet,” Mam Phalkun told the Post yesterday.
“Three out of 10 players are already playing in wheelchairs and four or five more could join them. Obviously wheelchairs are not easy to come by and we will address this issue by the time we get to the clinic later in the year.
“It is a pleasure to watch these kids progress under the guidance of Irene. This school is the seed of our grassroots wheelchair program which we at Tennis Cambodia hope to grow a lot bigger in the near future,” added Phalkun, who is also a member of Cambodia’s Davis Cup team heading to Iran early next month for the Asia Oceania Group III campaign.
The Tennis Cambodia team also visited Ta Hen, a school in Battambang for under-privileged children, where as many as 30 students practise tennis on a weekly basis.
“The progress has been so good that a few players look match ready. This is amazing. In a short time, Irene has been able to improve these players,” said Phalkun.
Tep Rithivit, meanwhile, noted that he always came away from these visits “with a great feeling”.
“These kids take nothing for granted. You can see it in their eyes that they are passionate about tennis and we at Tennis Cambodia will do whatever it takes to help them realise their tennis dreams,” he told the Post.
“‘I would like to express my gratitude to Cambodia Airports for sponsoring our schools tennis initiative and also Vittel for its support.”
Irene Reheberger Bescos left Cambodia yesterday for a few weeks break to finish her law exams back in her hometown in Spain. She is expected to return by the third week of July and Tennis Cambodia has already assigned one of its coaches in Irene’s absence to take care of the program in these two schools.
The third Junior National Tournament planned for late June has now been put off by at least a month to enable Irene to bring to Phnom Penh the players she has groomed to take part.