Chicago area wheelchair tennis player headed to Beijing

August 10, 2008 7:42:49 AM PDT
Two weeks after the summer Olympics in Beijing, China's capital city will also host the 2008 Paralympics games where more than 4,000 athletes with disabilities from 100 countries will compete.

One of the wheelchair tennis players on team USA is from the Chicago area. This year will make the fifth Paralympics for 41-year-old Paul Moran, but it will be his first time as a member of the wheelchair tennis team. Paul hopes to win his first medal.

"I'm third in the country right now, and I'm 33rd in the world. And I need to beat a lot of guys. You've got to beat a lot of players to get to the medal stand, but I feel I'm playing my best tennis now," he said.

Paul practices everyday at the Winnetka Park District's A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center. He also teaches tennis to those with and without disabilities.

"I teach. I've got privates that I teach, and then when they need me to sub in for a kids class or an adult class in the evening, I'm there," the athlete said.

Twenty-three years ago, Paul Moran became disabled while at Boston College. He was horsing around with his friend by the trolley car tracks.

"He was on one side. I was on the other. Tthere was an opening in the fence, and I thought I could run through, but they had a piece of rusty chain link fencing across the opening. So, it was like the same phenomenon where the glass door's open, but you walk into the screen door. There was a light rail vehicle coming," Paul Moran said.

Paul's right leg was amputated. He also lost two fingers on his left hand.

Moran had always excelled in sport. He was selected to the USA's sitting volleyball paralympic team four times. He wanted to play wheelchair tennis after seeing it for the first time in 1992.

"I saw it for the first time when I went to Barcelona for the Paralympics playing volleyball. A couple teammates took me to see a match, and I started playing about a year and half later and got hooked right off the bat," Moran said.

Wheelchair tennis is not easy or cheap. The special-designed wheelchair costs $2,000.

" It's the angle of the wheels. It's light. Other sports would have to have maybe a little more reinforcement in the front for contact, but since it's not a contact sport, the tennis chair is meant to be really nimble," said Moran. "It's trickier because, you know, in regular tennis, you're not going to turn your back to the court like you do you have to recover. It's easy to go over somebody when you move in. So, you've got to hit the ball, moving and move back, and then turn around and start moving back into the court before the ball comes back to you."

Paul Moran is also involved with Chicago 2016 Olympic bid effort.

"I'm on the advisory committee, and I go to as many of the events as I can when I'm in town. I love being part of it, and nothing I'd love to see more than see the Olympics and Paralympics in Chicago," he said.

And of course he would love to be playing wheelchair tennis for the USA team.

" I won't be 50 yet, but there is a player from Poland whose name is Tad Krusxelnicki and he's a grandfather. He's 52 or 53 years old. He's probably the number six or seven player in the world, and i figure, it he can do it, I can do it," said Moran.

Paul will be leaving for Beijing in a few weeks, and we wish him and the USA Paralympics team the best.


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