PARIS, June 1, 2016
Brad Parks, the US-American founder of wheelchair tennis, was presented with the ITF’s highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award, at the 2016 ITF World Champions Dinner on Tuesday in Paris at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines.
The World Champions Dinner celebrates the achievements of the 2015 ITF World Champions. This year’s recipients are singles champions Novak Djokovic (SRB) and Serena Williams (USA); doubles champions Jean-Julien Rojer (NED) and Horia Tecau (ROU), and Martina Hingis (SUI) and Sania Mirza (IND); junior champions Taylor Fritz (USA) and Dalma Galfi (HUN); and wheelchair champions Shingo Kunieda (JPN) and Jiske Griffioen (NED). The champion nations of Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, Great Britain and Czech Republic, have also been honoured.
The evening also saw the presentation of the third ITF Seniors Award for Outstanding Achievement to King Van Nostrand of USA. The 81-year-old is one of the most decorated senior players in history and has won 10 World Individual Singles titles, 10 World Individual Doubles titles and 16 World Team Championships representing USA.
Australian announcer Craig Willis hosted the evening, with ITF President David Haggerty presenting the awards to the World Champions, and the distinctive trophies once again being designed by internationally-recognised sculptor Laurence Broderick.
Parks received the Philippe Chatrier Award in recognition of his role as the pioneering founder of wheelchair tennis, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2016.
Paralysed during a freestyle skiing competition in 1976, when he was 18, the US-American began experimenting with tennis as recreational therapy. In hospital, Parks met wheelchair athlete and recreational therapist Jeff Minnebraker, and they began working on ideas and rules for a new sport. Minnebraker started building lightweight sports wheelchairs, and soon the pair were touring the United States to promote wheelchair tennis.
Parks led exhibitions and clinics to teach the sport to disabled adults and children throughout the 1980s. The National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis (NFWT) was born in 1980 and a ten-circuit tournament was started that culminated with the US Open wheelchair tennis championships, held in Parks’ native California.
In 1988, Parks became the inaugural president of the new International Wheelchair Tennis Federation (IWTF) while continuing to compete on the circuit. He was the No. 1-ranked player from 1980 to 1989. Wheelchair tennis quickly became one of the world’s fastest growing wheelchair sports, earning entry into the Paralympic Games in 1992, where Parks and his great rival, the late Randy Snow, won doubles gold for USA.
The sport became fully integrated into the ITF in 1998, making wheelchair tennis the first disability sport to achieve such a union at international level. Today the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour features over 150 tournaments in more than 40 countries, offering over $2 million in prize money.
ITF President David Haggerty said: “As wheelchair tennis celebrates its 40th anniversary, it is fitting that we honour one of the most inspirational figures in our sport. Brad Parks’ vision and perseverance enabled wheelchair tennis to become one of the fastest growing Paralympic sport, and provided opportunities for thousands of children and adults. We are delighted to present him with the Philippe Chatrier Award.”