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National

Team USA Wheelchair Spotlight:

Mackenzie Soldan

Erin Maher  |  May 17, 2018
<h2>Team USA Wheelchair Spotlight:</h2>
<h1>Mackenzie Soldan</h1>
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In honor of National Mobility Awareness Month in May, USTA.com is highlighting members of the Team USA wheelchair squad. Six men and women will represent the U.S. at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup final, the wheelchair tennis equivalent of Davis Cup and Fed Cup, in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, from May 28-June 3. This week we caught up with 2016 Paralympian Mackenzie Soldan. 

 

At 25 years old, Mackenzie Soldan has amassed quite the resume. Two Olympics, a national title and a gold medal are just some of this young athlete's amazing feats. 

USTA.com recently caught up with Soldan at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., where she recently moved to train full-time with USTA Player Development. 

 

USTA.com: You recently began to train at the USTA National Campus full-time. What was your first impression of the facility?

 

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Mackenzie Soldan: This place is huge. That was my first impression. I know there are over 100 courts, and that was overwhelming to me that you can have that many courts in one place. It’s beautiful. The palm trees lining the pathway, getting to practice on center court, is just awesome. I’m honored to be able to train here. It’s really exciting. 

 

USTA.com: You’re the first elite wheelchair athlete to train at the campus. What does that mean to you and the wheelchair tennis community? 

 

Mackenzie Soldan: It’s very humbling to finally be in the place where we can train alongside the up-and-coming pros and pros on the professional tour here at the campus. It’s a dream for us in the wheelchair tennis community because we’re always striving for people to recognize us as athletes. For me personally, it’s just incredible to have this experience to train in a place like this but to also know I can help give other people more opportunities in the U.S. to become part of the elite athletes. I’m just going to enjoy every day that I’m here.  

 

USTA.com: What was the main factor that made you decide to move to Orlando to train?

 

MacKenzie Soldan: After Rio, I didn’t know I would be pursuing sports on an elite level again because it was a tough journey getting there and it was exhausting. The moment that changed it for me was that I had been out of sports for seven or eight months at that point, still working out and everything, but not competing as much. I was playing tennis tournaments for fun, but I got to go to World Team Cup as a representative last May, and just being in that atmosphere again just clicked with me. I was like, ‘I can’t leave this.’

 

And that was the moment for me that kind of got me fired up, and I was like, 'If I’m going to do this, I have to do it right.' I was speaking to Team USA Wheelchair National Coach Jason Harnett at the same time about the campus when it just opened up, and that got me really excited. So I was hoping to find myself here, to see what I can do with tennis, and I’m glad I’m finally here. 

 

USTA.com: You’ve played in two different sports at two different Paralympics and took home the gold in wheelchair basketball at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Talk about that. 

 

Mackenzie Soldan: It’s been quite a journey. So I started playing wheelchair tennis when I was five, six years old. It’s in the family. My parents met on the high school tennis team up in Hemlock, Mich. It’s always been a family sport. When I was younger, I also did wheelchair basketball, as well. So those two sports have been around with me for a while. 

 

I made the U.S. wheelchair tennis team when I was 15 for the first time, the junior team. Then I kept going with that. Played college wheelchair basketball, going back and forth with wheelchair tennis. In 2011, I made the Parapan American wheelchair tennis team in Mexico. Competed there, ended up winning the gold in singles and doubles, which was an amazing experience for me. 

 

The next year I went to the London 2012 Paralympics and competed for tennis, and that was also an amazing experience, especially being my first Paralympics. I’ll never forget that. Going out of the tunnel at opening ceremonies, I never saw that many people in a stadium before, so that just made me want more. 

 

I sort of set tennis aside for a little bit and pursued wheelchair basketball. I made the U.S. wheelchair basketball team in 2013, all the way till Rio in 2016, where I won the gold medal with that USA team. And now, I decided I want to give tennis another run. So I’m back, and I’m trying to make a comeback here, and hopefully be amongst the top players again. 

 

USTA.com: What would be your advice to any children or teens who would like to play elite wheelchair tennis?

 

Mackenzie Soldan: If you want to pursue something, you can achieve it if you work hard enough for it. You can travel the world. You can get college scholarships. In tennis, you can make a professional career out of it. It’s about having the drive to do it, having the right people around you, having your family support. I know that was important for me – having a family to support me and parents who were willing to kind of let me get outside of my comfort zone and push myself and fail. It’s OK to fail once in a while; that’s where you learn the lesson that it’s OK. That’s where you learn the most. Just knowing opportunities are out there and it’s OK to try and fail and keep trying again. And that led me to where I am today. 

 

Pictured above: Mackenzie Soldan onsite at the USTA National Campus. (Photo credit: USTA)

USTA.com: You’re the first elite wheelchair athlete to train at the campus, what does that mean to you and the wheelchair tennis community? 

 

MacKenzie Soldan: It’s very humbling to finally be in the place where we can train alongside the up and coming pros and pros on the professional tour here at the campus. It’s a dream for us in the wheelchair tennis community, because we’re always striving for people to recognize us as athletes.

 

For me personally, it’s just incredible to have this experience to train in a place like this, but to also know I can help give other people more opportunities in the US to become part of the elite athletes. I’m just going to enjoy every day that I’m here.  

 

USTA.com: You’re the first elite wheelchair athlete to train at the campus, what does that mean to you and the wheelchair tennis community? 

 

MacKenzie Soldan: It’s very humbling to finally be in the place where we can train alongside the up and coming pros and pros on the professional tour here at the campus. It’s a dream for us in the wheelchair tennis community, because we’re always striving for people to recognize us as athletes.

 

For me personally, it’s just incredible to have this experience to train in a place like this, but to also know I can help give other people more opportunities in the US to become part of the elite athletes. I’m just going to enjoy every day that I’m here.  

 

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