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WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Top Stories - International Deaf Tennis in Scenic City
Updated:
Thursday, July 17 2014, 05:03 PM EDT
International Deaf Tennis in Scenic City
Chattanooga is home to an international competiton this week.

The 2014 World Deaf Tennis Championships are underway.
Let's take a look at the action in this unique competition.

On one court, a Japanese player takes on an Indian player in the women's singles action. Friends and relatives from both countries  also made the trip to cheer them on.

Next court over, it's Russia versus Austria in the men's singles.
Today, they're playing round robin.

And these players have one thing in common -- they're deaf or hearing impaired.
Imagine playing tennis in silence.

Tobias Burz is one of the organizers.
Burz is on the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.

Through a sign language interpreter, Burz said, "Before, previously, the level wasn't the same as it is now. We're able to really be competitive and to be involved and to have several different countries involved."

This year, 54 players from 11 different countries have come to The Champions Club at Rivermont Park. Emily Hangstefer and Laura Chapman are respresenting the USA. Hangstefer played for UTC. Hangstefer said, "It's fun to see all these international people come to my hometown and play tennis."

She and Chapman have only partial hearing loss. Both wear devices, which greatly enhance their hearing. Under international rules, if a player has hearing loss of 55 decibels or more in their better ear, they're eligible. But they can't play with the devices.

Throughout the day, various forms of communication unfolded. Coaches signed words of encouragement and reinforcement. Teammates signed to one another on the court, and off. A bond is also formed here in this internationally competitive atmosphere. Burz explained, "The more competitive it is, the more they enjoy it, and the more it means to them. They're able to work hard, they're able to support one another, to see one another play, to cheer each other on."

Emily and Laura have done that and taken their talents to the top. Chapman elaborated on playing at this level, "What can I use my disabilites for, you know, what advantage could there be with being deaf? And then I realized you can play tennis in a whole other type of world out there and win a gold medal."

The duo did just that last year. They won a gold medal in the women's doubles at the Deaflympics. Meanwhile, Burz said the Chattanooga site and the city itself have been good.It was suggested as a site by the USA Deaf Tennis. Next year, the competition moves to Great Britain.

The tournament comes to a close on Saturday at The Champions Club. There will be a medal ceremony and then a closing ceremony after all competition is completed.


by John Madewell




International Deaf Tennis in Scenic City

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