Following several months of weekly training at JTCC, four determined athletes brought home seven medals for their efforts at the Special Olympics USA Games held in Seattle July 1-6.
The Special Olympics USA Games draws 4,000 athletes competing in 14 individual and team sports.
Bijan Bagheri and Brian Salewski both won gold medals in singles before teaming up to win a doubles gold in their respective categories. They were joined by Edie Daniello who secured two silver medals in singles and doubles play, respectively, and Michael Heup, who won a singles bronze.
Under the guidance of JTCC coach Abby Landis, who attained her Special Olympics coaching certification in 2017, the four players trained on Sundays at JTCC to prepare for the USA Games.
“We are so proud of what Bijan, Brian, Edie and Michael accomplished in Seattle,” said Landis. “Their achievements will hopefully act as a spring board to encourage more Special Olympics athletes to play tennis.”
JTCC celebrated the achievements of the Special Olympics stars in conjunction with a Unified Tennis day offering doubles round robin play at JTCC on Saturday, July 21. The event was attended by JTCC high performance players, coaches and club members along with Special Olympics Maryland athletes, including the medalists.
“JTCC is fully committed to providing an optimum environment for “Tennis for Every Body,” said JTCC Senior Director of Tennis Vesa Ponkka. “A long and successful partnership with Special Olympic athletes is a key part of our mission for the future. Their results will undoubtedly inspire everyone involved in the program, including our coaches and students.”
As part of JTCC’s widely acclaimed Community Outreach program JTCC high performance student-athletes travel to recreation centers and elementary schools throughout the greater Washington D.C. area to coach and mentor underserved children ages 5 -11 introducing tennis to the children for the first time.
Since Landis introduced the Special Olympics athlete training program in March, JTCC student-athletes Trinity and Origen Grear, and Mackenzie Clark have been volunteer assistants at the Special Olympics training sessions.
In September, in addition to JTCC’s commitment to Special Olympics athletes, JTCC will partner with Thanks USA to provide tennis instruction to veterans who have been physically, mentally or emotionally injured.
“Playing with military heroes who have shown the ultimate dedication to service, commitment and sacrifice will certainly help develop the ‘no excuses’ mentality we aim to instill in our players”, said Ponkka. “We are very confident that having military veterans as part of our environment at JTCC will foster many informal mentoring relationships.”