The dlr TAKEI Blind Tennis World Championships takes place in Shankill from April 26th to 30th when as many as 60 players will compete in this unique competition which is being held in Ireland for the first time.
Competitors will come from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Pakistan, Poland, Great Britain and Ireland. Between players, sighted guides, coaches and officials up to 300 people involved in the tournament including many volunteers.
Blind tennis is an extremely skilled form of the sport. It is played on a normal court and the players locate the ball by the sound made by a bell in the middle of the ball. They are allowed either two or three bounces depending on their level of vision.
Approximately 40 per cent of the entrants taking part in the World Championships are in the Paralympic category B1 which is for players with zero vision.
Blind Tennis (tennis for blind and visually impaired people) was created by Mr Miyoshi Takei in Japan in 1984. The sport has grown since then with many countries now participating competitively on all five continents.
It is the fastest growing sport for the blind/vision impaired community worldwide and was introduced to Ireland in 2016 by Tennis Ireland and Vision Sports Ireland at Shankill Tennis club where the new three-court Indoor Centre will be used for the Championships.
The first Irish team competed in the 2017 World Championships in Alicante, Spain. As a result, Ireland now has a number of world ranked players,
The Irish Team to take part in this year’s Championships following regional and national qualification tournaments. It is strong 12-person team which is a mixture of experience and youth and is ambitious to improve upon the 2017 Alicante results.
Tournament Organiser and President of Leinster Tennis, Mr Liam O’Donohoe, said: "We are honoured to be hosting this major international sporting event in Shankill. The interest in participating in the tournament from the worldwide community of blind/visually impaired tennis players was way beyond expectations and what was originally envisaged as a two-day tournament will now run over four days.”
He added: “Last year an impressive group of players travelled to compete internationally for the first time. Based on their performance and the rapid growth of the game in Ireland, IBTA (International Blind Tennis Association) awarded the 2018 world games to Ireland.”
Mr Joe Geraghty from Vision Sports Ireland stated: “We launched blind/vi tennis in conjunction with Tennis Ireland in 2016. The game has seen terrific growth since then - and now has eight clubs nationwide with active blind/vi tennis, and two more (Dundalk and Waterford) about to start. We look forward to strong Irish performances.”
Ms Tina Lowe (who played on the Irish team in 2017 and this year is a member of the tournament committee) said: “The opportunity to play blind/vi tennis has brought me the opportunity play and compete in the sport I loved before I lost my sight 20 years ago. With a great group of juniors having started the game - the future is secure! I’d encourage all parents of juniors who may be interested to come along and experience the game in action.”
Mr Simon McFarland, Head Coach with Windsor Tennis Club in Belfast stated: “Blind/VI Tennis has transformed many lives in Ulster. The players have grown both in their game play, their physicality and their confidence and we are very proud to be part of the Irish team taking part in the World Championships.”
Everyone is welcome to come to watch the games - or indeed the team practice sessions on Thursday, 26th April in Shankill, Glenageary and Sandycove Tennis Clubs. We are putting together a significant volunteer effort to deliver an exceptional sporting experience for our international visitors and Irish team. All volunteers very welcome - email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shankill Tennis Club and IBTA (International Blind Tennis Association) are grateful to all our sponsors and partners and in particular, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Sport Ireland, Tennis Ireland and Vision Sports Ireland for their generous support of this tournament. In addition, we would like to recognise the significant support received from leading companies, including Topcon and Mongey Communications as well as Abbott International and Dunnes Stores.
Further information and updates on the tournament are available on: Website: CLICK HERE. Facebook: CLICK HERE.
See more about blind tennis on this RTE News report: CLICK HERE
Blind tennis, invented in Japan in 1984, is played on a realigned tennis court with special tennis balls that emit sound. Raised tactile lines are used as navigational markers to assist the visually impaired athletes to recognise their position on the court. Players use their heightened sense of hearing and develop their spatial awareness to track and hit the Blind Tennis balls. Athletes are classified using Paralympic sight classifications: B1, B2 and B3. B1 players have no vision or no functional vision. B2 and B3 players have a small amount of useful sight within a reduced field of vision.
Blind Tennis in Ireland is part of the Enjoy Tennis Programme and is a partnership between Vision Sports Ireland and Tennis Ireland. It has received significant funding from Sport Ireland and currently operates in three centres in Dublin and two in Belfast as well as in Navan, Sligo and Cork.