Hawaii wheelchair tennis athlete sets sights on 2020 Paralympic Games

Updated: May. 28, 2019 at 9:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Covering the court on two wheels, Hawaii's Shelby Baron makes wheelchair tennis look effortless.

She excels at the sport.

"I get to control everything I do on that court. That's what really drives my passion for it," she said.

Shelby was born with spina bifida. The congenital condition affected her spinal chord and her lower body, but not her spirit.

"That was the only life I knew was walking around with arm crutches and leg braces. And then I was introduced to a wheelchair for sports so that I would be able to participate and play in PE with all my classmates," she said.

She started with basketball but quickly learned she had a knack for tennis.

The Punahou School graduate landed a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama, which she helped lead to the NCAA wheelchair tennis title.

Her tennis racket has taken her to tournaments around the world.

“I played in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Israel, Turkey, France, and in Spain,” she said.

Shelby also played for Team USA at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

"I really just enjoyed that experience. It was amazing to be surrounded by all these disabled athletes," she said.

With her family’s support, she’s now working to qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

"They really want me to qualify for Tokyo. I know they want to go visit Japan as a family. They said, 'If you make it or not we're going to go as a family.' So I better be there as well," she laughed.

Shelby just finished playing for the United States in a World Cup match. She hopes her story of overcoming obstacles inspires other people.

“I’m playing in a wheelchair but whatever you want to do you should be able to try it. You never know where it will take you,” she said.

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