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Local wheelchair tennis pro hopes to use his platform to motivate young athletes

Charlie Cooper, a wheelchair tennis professional who suffers from spina bifida, unexpectedly found his passion for tennis.

"It wasn't until I met someone at a guitar store with the same disability as me, and they said, try wheelchair tennis at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden," Charlie said. "I gave it a go on a Friday night, and from there, I just kept going and fell in love with the sport."

Winning the 2024 BNP Paribas World Team Cup, his coach recognized the biggest growth in his maturity on and off the court. 

"He actually tries and puts in 100% all the time, and he just loves his game, and that's what made him very successful," coach D'Wayne Begay said. 

Being ranked as the number nine junior singles player, Cooper wants to use his platform to motivate other young athletes with disabilities.

"It definitely may feel hopeless for them like for me, you know, I didn't know what my dream was going to be," Charlie said. "So I found myself, you know, trying out adaptive sports, and I just want to get the message out. You could try tennis, and I just want to make sure that, you know, a disability is just an ability to show your talents and find something that you love in life."

Having played at signature events like the U.S. Open, Cooper always puts other people first.

"He's very friendly, he's very likable, he's kind, and he's respectful," Cooper's father, Brent, said. "Whenever he sees others with disabilities, he will go over to them in a manner of making them feel comfortable and encouraging them. But you know, more so than the words, he's just leading by example."

With the goal of becoming the best player in the world, he wants to use his story that anything is possible.

"My goal is inspiring the younger kids. So the more kids they go on TV. That's Charlie Cooper in a wheelchair. Playing tennis. Now, I want to try that out," Charlie said. "I want to give it a go. I think that's the goal and getting more viewers opening up to these bigger tournaments, that's the first step."

Article Topic Follows: Local Sports Headlines

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Kenji Ito


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