Japanese casual wear UNIQLO and the International Tennis Foundation (ITF) have announced South African wheelchair tennis player Patrick Selepe as the inaugural winner of the UNIQLO Spirit Award.
British wheelchair tennis player Louise Hunt was also named runner-up in the judging for this year’s award.
The UNIQLO Spirit Award will be awarded annually to a current wheelchair tennis player who embodies the principles and core values of UNIQLO and Fast Retailing Group by seeking to challenge and change the world around them by challenging themselves and striving for the highest standards imaginable, pursuing their goals with an innovative spirit and a shared desire to see wheelchair tennis continually moving forward to ever greater heights.
Nominations based on these criteria considered players from the grassroots of the sport up to those competing at the elite levels of the game.
A judging panel, comprised of ITF Wheelchair Tennis Committee members and ITF Head of Wheelchair Tennis Alistair Williams created a shortlist of nominations, with UNIQLO invited to choose a winner and runner-up.
Mr Selepe, who receives USD 5,000 (EUR 4,200) as the inaugural winner of the UNIQLO Sprit Award, was recognised and commended for his commitment to all aspects of wheelchair tennis over a period of 10 years as a competitive player and as an official, becoming the first disabled person to attain the White Badge officiating qualification.
At the same time he has worked tirelessly and shown immense and selfless devotion to the development of the sport in South Africa, playing a major role in overseeing the activities of a wheelchair tennis development programme that serves several centres and over 500 players.
Two-time Paralympian Hunt took up wheelchair tennis aged five. Aside from her own success, her biggest motivation is to help and encourage others to reach their own personal goals and potential.
To this end, the judging panel were particularly struck by her empathy with young disabled and non-disabled people and her work as an athlete mentor for a variety of organisations, using tennis as a tool to empower and help others from a variety of backgrounds to change their lives for the better. This has included considerable time spent supporting Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund projects around the world.
The full story is available on the ITF’s website.