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Fort Mitchell, KY — Growing up, top-ranked wheelchair tennis player Emmy Kaiser played just about every sport.
Despite being born with Spina bifida, a birth defect affecting the spinal column, the Fort Mitchell native tried her hand at baseball, soccer, swimming, rowing and even dance. At the age of 5, Kaiser found her favorite when organizers at a local wheelchair tennis exhibition handed her a tennis racket.
It was love at first serve, according to 22-year-old Kaiser – and the game has since taken her all over the world.
This week, Kaiser is in Asia representing the United States at the 2012 BNP Paribas World Team Cup, where the nation’s top wheelchair tennis players will compete against participants from around the globe. Often referred to as wheelchair tennis’ equivalent of pro tennis’ Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions, the World Team Cup tournament brings the world’s best wheelchair tennis players together in one of the world’s premier tennis team events.
For Kaiser, a veteran player who has already competed at seven World Team Cup tournaments, it will be a familiar scene – but still just as exciting as her first.
The best part is simply being a part of the U.S. team, she said.
“We are in a way our own little family, and each person adds their own experiences to the team to make it great,” said Kaiser. “This year I am looking forward to the competition and playing with the team just like always, but this is the first time it will be in Asia. The culture is very different than anything I have ever experienced, so I am looking forward to seeing those differences.”
This year’s competition will take place May 21-27 in Seoul, Korea, at the Seoul Olympic Tennis Center, home of the 1988 Summer Olympics. It will be the first time Asia will host the event, according to the United States Tennis Association, and more than 160 players and 52 teams from more than 25 nations are expected to participate.
The upcoming World Team Cup is not all that’s on Kaiser’s mind, however. She’s also trying to qualify for the 2012 Paralympic Games – a goal she’s been working toward since she started playing the game.
Additionally, Kaiser just obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Thomas More College and is headed to Ball State University this fall to earn her master’s degree in sport psychology. She ultimately hopes to help other athletes as a sport psychologist, and hopes to one day coach a college wheelchair tennis team.
“I think it is extremely important for any age,” Kaiser said of the importance of wheelchair sports programs. “As a kid, it helps to keep them active and interested in something that can help develop physical, social, mental and emotional skills that will be useful in any aspect of life as an adult.
“For me, it helped with time management, goal setting, confidence, networking, independence and, honestly, just having fun in competition.”