The USTA announced the two men and two women nominated to represent the United States in wheelchair tennis at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, November 14-18. The 2011 US Open wild card Emmy Kaiser and 2010 US Open wild card Mackenzie Soldan will play on the women’s team. Four-time Paralympic medalist Steve Welch and 2007 Parapan Am gold medalist Jon Rydberg will play on the men’s team.
All nominations are subject to the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The players will compete in men’s and women’s singles, as well as men’s and women’s doubles. During the event, Dan James will serve as Head Coach; Jason Harnett will be the Assistant Coach; and Jeremiah Yolkut will be the Team Leader.
Kaiser, 21, of Fort Mitchell, Ky., is the top-ranked American women’s wheelchair player. Born with spina bifida, Kasier has been competing on the wheelchair tour since 2006. She competed in the 2009 and 2011 US Open as a wild card and has had a strong presence in the World Team Cup, representing the U.S. from 2009 to 2011, where the team finished fifth in her debut. She formerly ranked No. 3 in the junior rankings and played on the Junior World Team Cup team for five years. Kasier will graduate in December from Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., with a major in psychology and minor in business.
Soldan, 19, of Louisville, Ky., peaked at No. 18 in the world in 2010 and competed in her first US Open last year as a wild card. As an infant, Soldan was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor and had surgery that left her paralyzed from the chest down. At a young age, Soldan began playing both wheelchair tennis and basketball. Since then, she became the No. 1-ranked junior wheelchair tennis player in the country and has represented Team USA in the junior World Team Cup. On the pro wheelchair circuit, she has won more than 30 singles and doubles matches since 2008. Soldan currently attends the University of Alabama, where she plays wheelchair basketball and tennis for the school.
Welch, 39, of Arlington, Texas, competed in his fourth Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and holds four career Paralympic medals, including one doubles gold medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Since 1992, Welch has won more than 100 major titles, and first held the world No. 1 ranking in 1995. Welch played in his first career US Open in New York this year after receiving a wild card. At age eight, Welch was diagnosed with Legg Calve Perthes, a degenerative bone condition. He has played competitive basketball in addition to tennis, and was part of five national championships in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
Rydberg, 34, of St. Paul, Minn., peaked at No. 11 in the world in 2007 and competed in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics. He also captured the singles gold medal at the 2007 Parapan Am Games and the doubles silver medal that year with Lee Hinson. Rydberg has represented the U.S. at the World Team Cup and competed in three US Open wheelchair competitions. In addition to being a successful wheelchair tennis player, he is an accomplished wheelchair basketball player, earning a scholarship to play at the University of Texas-Arlington, where he helped lead the school to a national championship in 1997. Rydberg holds a degree in art from the University of Texas-Arlington and coaches tennis at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minnesota. He was injured in an accident when he was 13 months old.
Started in 1999, The Parapan Am Games are an international multi-sport event for athletes with a physical disability. The Games are held every four years in the year immediately prior to the Paralympic Games. This year, an estimated 1,500 athletes will compete in 13 different sports from 26 countries.