Australia’s wheelchair tennis young guns will come home with more than just medals around their necks, thanks to the invaluable experience the Arafura Games has provided them.
A unique and inclusive multi-sport event, the Arafura Games allows Para-athletes on the Paralympic pathway crucial experience against international athletes within the region.
And while there is no official medal count for the event, touted as the friendly Games, Australia’s medal haul in wheelchair tennis proved to be fruitful, with 10 medals won.
Retired Paralympian Anthony Bonaccurso defeated compatriot Martyn Dunn to take home gold (6-3,6-2), with 13-year-old Riley Dumsday winning bronze in the senior class against Daniel Jeffrey (6-0,6-0).
Dumsday also took gold against fellow Australian Finn Broadbent (6-3,6-4) in the juniors, with Hayley Slocombe taking bronze. In the doubles, Slocombe and Sally Schwartz won the women’s event against development athletes from Timor-Leste, while all three medals were presented to Australians in the men’s doubles division.
Tennis Australia wheelchair tennis development manager Greg Crump said the proof is in the pudding in terms of each of the athletes’ development.
“This week, we’ve brought up some junior players. We’re using this as a training camp for the World Team Cup in Israel in a couple of weeks’ time, and we’ve also brought up some development coaches as well,” he said.
“It’s been a wonderful week. The players have improved, the coaches have had a great time and we want to come back up in a couple of years’ time and do it bigger and better.”
Bonaccurso, who participated in the Arafura Games as a player/coach said while he admits he contested to give the tournament extra depth, it certainly reignited his passion for competing.
“I think my last match was in 2006, and to come back to this, and to Arafura Games and to get that heart racing again, it’s a really good feeling,” he said.
“One of the reasons I came back to play was to make the draw tougher for our juniors, to give them experience and show them what you’ve got to do in sport, but it’s been awesome.
“In two years’ time, it’s going to be a bigger and better tournament. It’s going to be fun.”
By Sascha Ryner, Paralympics Australia Media