“Champions on Wheels”, a short film, looks at the lifestyles and struggles of tennis athletes with physical disabilities. Daryl “Chill” Mitchell from the show “Ed” narrates the film that focuses on a few of the top wheelchair tennis players in the world.
Names like Sharon Clark, Steve Welch, Nick Taylor, and David Hall are only familiar to those who participate in a world that has yet to achieve the recognition it deserves for its work and dedication to wheelchair tennis.
The film tries to answer the question, “Is there life after disability?”
That question summarizes the point of view of the film. It is not a film about people born with a disability. Although, Steve Welch was diagnosed with a bone disease and is featured in the project, it mainly deals with the top tennis players who found the sport as way to deal with their new found life as a disabled person.
If I had the job of marketing this film my first decision would be to compose a list of every rehabilitation center in the world. It is inspiring to hear about how these positive minded individuals found themselves with a tennis racket in their hands after a tragic accident.
Any rehabilitation center or therapy clinic would find this film to be a huge asset because it is easier to show someone what they can still do after losing the ability to walk than to try to explain it to the patients and then walking away themselves.
It was a bit disappointing to see so much emphasis on one particular athlete, Beth Arnoult. Perhaps it is because her desire to walk again after her ATV accident captures the emotional strings that tug at the able bodied community. The idea is simple: this could happen to them.
Yet, Beth took life in stride. She married, had a son, and regained some ability to walk. The film, “Champions on Wheels”, follows Beth at home, tucking her child in bed, going to tennis practice, and at tournaments. There is original footage of Beth immediately after the accident and on her wedding day.
Her story is remarkable. However, I was left with a curiosity about the other athletes and since I am disabled because of a genetic disease, I wanted to know about tennis players who were also in my position. I am hoping there will be a part two concentrating on athletes like Nick Taylor and Steve Welch.
The biggest message coming out of the film is that all of these athletes put their energy, time, and resources into tennis because they love it. Unlike, the able bodied tennis superstars, Andre Agassi, Venus and Serena Williams, disabled tennis players do not receive a hefty paycheck for their sacrifices.
They love the sport and the ability to play with other people around the world is their payment.
So is there life after a disability? According to Grace Shafir’s documentary, there is life, tennis and so much more.
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