Giving wheelchair sports a spin

Eight-year-old Sammy Brooks wasn't too sure what to do with the tennis racket when the first ball flew her way, but it didn't take long before she was lobbing them back like an old pro.

"Way to go," observers shouted every time she or any of the other kids hit a good one.

"This is fun. The best part is hitting the ball and hitting the coaches with the ball," said the second-grader from Yelm, Thurston County.

Sammy was one of hundreds of wheelchair users who attended an all-day Washington Wheelchair Sports Jamboree yesterday at a community center in West Seattle.

The jamboree, first held last year, gives wheelchair users a chance to try state-of-the-art sports wheelchairs as well as other gear such as hand cycles — bicycles pedaled by hand.

Attendees at the event — sponsored by Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Meridian Kiwanis Club of Kent and the Quickie wheelchair company — also had the chance to participate in races, learn tennis and watch a competitive wheelchair-basketball game.

Wheelchair sports

For more information about wheelchair sports and the companies and organizations devoted to them, call Nick Bicknell with Seattle Parks and Recreation at 206-615-0617.
"This is a great event for the kids and their parents, too," said Michael Higgins, a player on the Sonics men's wheelchair-basketball team. "It gives them a chance to see all the chairs and equipment, find out how to use them and see what they can do."

"Our big thing is to get people to come out, try the sports and break the stereotypes," said Jim Martinson, a Paralympian gold medalist from Puyallup.

Tyler Strahan, 19, came up from Vancouver, Wash., for just that reason. He's active in sports and already has a chair for playing basketball, but he wanted to see what else was out there. His favorite was the hand cycle.

"These things can be expensive," said his father, Elson Strahan. "It's kind of like buying a car. You want to shop around."

Sammy's father, J.R. Brooks, said he's not sure what wheelchair sports his daughter will pursue, but he's fairly certain she'll play something.

"This has been great for her because her brother and sister play sports and she's always watched. Now, she'll be able to play, too."

Christine Clarridge can be reached at 206-464-8983 or