in his sights
Source: Winnipeg Sun
Published: May 30th 2008
Talk about a quick study.
It was just five short years ago that he was introduced to wheelchair tennis.
And now, it looks like Taylor Tennis Club's Lee Carter will be headed to the Paralympic Games in Beijing, China come September.
Officially, Carter is "on track" to qualify, with Tennis Canada's official announcement to come July 8, he said.
"It's phenomenal," said Carter, who needed to meet a national standard to qualify. "It would be my first time and that's absolutely phenomenal."
Carter, 32, is the reigning Canadian men's champ and is ranked No. 32 in world singles and 22 in doubles. But whether Carter will be allowed to take a doubles partner with him is still up in the air. Once Carter's Paralympic status becomes official, Tennis Canada will likely request a wild-card spot for Quebec's Yann Mathieu.
Carter lost his legs as the result of getting crushed between a locomotive and boxcar when he was working as a switchman 12 years ago.
"I lost both my legs but I was lucky to survive," said Carter, who has discovered a whole new world as a wheelchair tennis pro.
"I play full-time and I compete in about 19 tournaments a year. I do lots of travelling. I've been to Brazil, all across Canada and the U.S., France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Great Britain, Italy and I just got back from Japan."
And to think that it has only been five years since he first picked up that tennis racquet.
"A good friend of mine took me down to the tennis courts and I fell in love with it," said Carter, who is a carded athlete. "I was working full-time and eventually, I had to make a decision about whether to run with it. So, I'm on my second year of leave of absence (from the railway)."
But the money at the tourneys does not pay the bills.
"It's all about the (ranking) points," he said. "The cash is not the greatest. But I get funded by Sport Canada as part of the national team, plus some private sponsors. But I could always use more."
When not touring, Carter spends a lot of time with Kari Schneider, a strength and conditioning coach since his upper-arm strength is so important, as well as a nutritionist and sports psychologist.
"And I have a great coach (Jared Connell)," he added.
Carter uses a specially-designed chair that allows him to turn his tires quicker as the only difference between wheelchair tennis and able-bodied tennis is that the ball is allowed to bounce twice.
"But at the level we're playing at, you don't see it bounce twice," he said.
Carter plans to ease up on his schedule as the Paralympics approach and will concentrate on tournaments which lure the world's best players.
But there is a major worry about competing in China.
"The No. 1 concern is the pollution," Carter said. "They have been busy lung-testing all of us. It's a concern for all of the athletes going over there."