at the Special Olympics
June 1, 2019
Their story begins in 2013 at a Special Olympics tournament in Florida. They were about the same age, both diagnosed on the autism spectrum, both loved tennis and both played it very well. Some umpires suggested they might enjoy hitting with each other. They tried and they did!
Fast forward to 2019, and the families of Brittany Tagliareni and Ryan Smith are planning a wedding! In the meantime they have traveled to many tournaments (as far away as Abu Dhabi this year) and accumulated a lot of medals, playing with and against each other at various local, national and international events for adaptive athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Brittany, who plays at the 4.0-4.5 level, is now 28, Ryan is 30 and plays at 4.0. They often play singles against each other (which is hard for them), as well as doubles, unified doubles, and often mixed doubles together. At the World Championships for Adaptive Athletes in Abu Dhabi, Brittany won silver in singles, and together they won silver in mixed doubles. ADVERTISEMENT Brittany also won the gold medal in the first ever USTA National Adaptive Championship held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando late in 2018. That event was played in the unified doubles format, and her partner was Liam Gomez.
Brittany’s mother Catherine reports that the combination of all these events and the relationship with Ryan has not only improved Brittany’s tennis but has helped greatly with her verbal and social skills. The family is in the process of constructing an addition onto their home in Florida and building a tennis court for the couple who, despite being skilled at tennis, lack some of the necessary life skills to live independently. The parents have also purchased a restaurant franchise so that both Brittany and Ryan and others with special needs will have an outlet for employment utilizing the abilities that they do have. Ryan has attended culinary school and can whip up some meals, while Brittany is able to work the cash register with a little help making change.
Like tennis, it all began with love, and it’s something that has the potential to be a lifetime activity!