CHULA VISTA, Calif –David Wagner didn’t choose to play wheelchair tennis, but he now embraces it.
“I went and tried it out and I just fell in love with the sport and couldn`t get enough of it,” Wagner said after a recent workout at the Olympic Training Center.
After a surfing accident in 1995 left him paralyzed from the waist down, Wagner discovered he could still play tennis – a sport he played in community college before his accident.
The 38 year-old San Diego resident has since won two gold medals in the quad division at the Paralympics.
“It`s an honor to say, ‘I`m an Olympics athlete and a gold medalist,’” Wagner said. “Going for my third gold medal with Nick is great.”
Nick is Wagner’s doubles partner, 32 year-old Nick Taylor, a self-described very competitive man.
“I always say I could turn eating a plate of mashed potatoes into a competition, because I actually did, and about anything else you can think of, everything is a competition,” Taylor said.
In a wheelchair since berth, Taylor devised a way to serve by flipping up the ball with his feet, and he says it took a lot of work to get to this level.
“When I first started I could not hit a tennis ball 10 feet,” Taylor said. “I just couldn`t. I wasn`t strong enough.
“I can definitely hit a ball harder than that now, forehand, probably 70 to 80 miles an hour and that was just from countless, countless hours of trying over and over and over and over and over.”
All those hours resulted in the two partners travelling the world to play tournaments and winning those back-to-back gold medals.
And they say a three-peat in London this August would be really sweet.
“To win it for a third time in a row would be the best you can imagine,” Wagner said. “That`s exactly what we`re here for and that`s what we`re training for and that`s what we`re looking to do, so it definitely would be a dream come true.”
The San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation offers wheelchair tennis and they will hold their 26th annual Jr. Wheelchair Sports Camp August 7-11.