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Wheelchair tennis player ready to shine for US at Paralympics

Casey Ratzlaff
Posted at 7:45 AM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 15:20:59-04

Competing in the Paralympics was always a dream for Casey Ratzlaff — and now it's become a reality.

After 10 years of playing wheelchair tennis, Ratzlaff will compete at the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo in both men's singles and doubles.

"I'm super excited. It's going to be the pinnacle of everything I've worked for in my tennis career so far," Ratzlaff said.

Ratzlaff was born with spina bifida but never let his disability stop him. Ranked 23rd in the world, Ratzlaff leaves for Tokyo on Friday.

"I never looked at myself like I was less than or disabled," Ratzlaff said. "I knew I was different, but I never viewed myself as less than."

Ratzlaff first picked up a tennis racket at the age of 12, and while he used crutches and a walker as a child, he began using a wheelchair full-time when he reached high school.

"When I met him, he didn't even know how to push himself around in a wheelchair," said Jeff Clark, Ratzlaff's former coach and mentor.

Ten years after he picked up the sport, and with the help of his coaches, Ratzlaff can call himself a Paralympian.

"With or without a wheelchair, what he can do with a racket is incredible," Jeff Clark, Ratzlaff's former coach, said.

As he prepares for Tokyo, Ratzlaff has a message for children of all abilities.

"Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and push your limits," Ratzlaff said.

The Tokyo Paralympics begin Aug. 24 and run through Sept. 5.

This story was originally published by McKenzie Nelson on Scripps station KSHB in Kansas City, Missouri.