In 2020, the National High Performance Program will welcome five Canadian wheelchair tennis athletes. Rob Shaw, Thomas Venos, Gary Luker and Mitch McIntyre are returning members, while Barry Henderson is the new recruit to this elite development program.
The National High Performance Program is designed for athletes on track to meet one of Tennis Canada’s performance and podium objectives, which include Paralympic and Parapan Am podium results, rankings in the Top 16 and targeted World Team Cup results. Athletes in the program receive a number of benefits and support including assistance from the National Coach, sport science and sport medicine personnel, funding assistance, training camps, access to Sport Canada carding and privileges at the National Tennis Centre and Regional Training centers.
“These athletes put in an incredible amount of work in order to compete in the highest-level tournaments around the world,” said National Coach Kai Schrameyer. “They are part of this recent surge in Canadian tennis, where we are seeing success in all aspects of the game, including at the wheelchair level.”
Team member Rob Shaw has had a number of breakout performances on the wheelchair circuit. The Ontario native followed up a stellar 2018 with an even better 2019, which was highlighted by his gold medal at the Parapan Am Games in Peru. He made Canadian tennis history by becoming the first player, able-bodied or wheelchair, to win a multi-sport medal in singles.
Shaw was also a member of the Canadian squad at the 2019 World Team Cup (WTC), with the quad team finishing in sixth place. He was joined on the team by compatriots Luker and McIntyre. This result allowed for direct qualification for the 2020 WTC, set to take place in Portugal in May. Shaw was also crowned champion at the Birmingham Nationals, taking home hist fifth consecutive title.
For his part, McIntyre reached the semi-finals in singles at last year’s Parapan Am Games in Lima and will be attempting to qualify to the Paralympics, set to take place later this year in Tokyo.
At only 19 years of age, Thomas Venos is the young gun of the group. In 2019, he captured his first men’s singles title at the Birmingham Nationals, having reached the final the year before. He also took home the doubles title alongside Barry Henderson, the rookie of this year’s High Performance Group. Earlier this month, Henderson represented Canada for the first time at the WTC qualifiers in Buenos Aires. Despite being the new addition, he has ambitious goals, including qualifying for the Parapan Am Games in 2023.
The longest standing member of the group is Luker, who is in his 12th year with the program. Currently ranked no. 57 in the quad division, he will be a member of the WTC team competing in Portugal this may, alongside Shaw and McIntyre.
(Feature photo: Mara Chaplin)