Wheelchair tennis team set to compete for the first time


Anna Salinas (left), Carlos Salinas and Muhammad Khan (right) are aiming to get the tennis wheelchair sport to be recognized across campus and the community. | Sonia Zuniga/The Cougar

A new intermural sports team is gradually growing into UH’s Adaptive Athletics Department and many students aren’t aware of it yet.

The tennis wheelchair team wants to change that win by win.

The director of Adaptive Athletics at UH, Michael Cottingham, has pushed toward building the new team and expanding it into a prominent sport on campus.

“At this point (the team) has been practicing with the community program in Houston,” Cottingham said. “Now, we have enough athletes and financial support from the University, and (we’ve) added a new coach. So, we are developing our own independent program.”

The team’s three members — supply chain logistics junior Carlos Salinas, mechanical engineering junior Muhammad Khan and graduate electrical engineer Eric Ingram — want their program to reach the development other adaptive athletic teams have.

“Tennis has taught me about structure and discipline,” Salinas said. “Keeping the ball where you want it to be. I have applied (a lot of that) to my life. If you want to do something, you have to work for it.”

Salinas is paraplegic which means he is paralyzed from the waist down. He recently joined wheelchair tennis after meeting Khan at orientation last fall and said this is the first year he’s ever played for any sports team after his accident.

“Before my accident, nine years ago, I was very physically active,” Salinas said. “I loved sports. It wasn’t until I met Muhammad in that orientation that I just started to be active again. He opened up a door I never thought would be open to me.”

Khan, who is quadriplegic and has limited mobility in all four extremities, competed before joining the team, including winning gold at the U.S. Open Wheelchair Championship and earning first place at the Capitol Cities Classic in Tennessee. He moved to Houston from Baton Rouge, La. last year after meeting Cottingham.

“He came up and explained how he wanted to make this program, I was so induced that I changed homes and came here,” Khan said. “I love all the opportunities I came to see at UH.”

The wheelchair singles player lead 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in the Men and Women Wheelchair Competition.

“Once (people) see us on court, it’ll be something they have never seen before,” Khan said.

Khan and Salinas just competed in the Collegiate Wheelchair Tennis Championships at the newly resurfaced Student Recreation Center against the University of Alabama Oct.16 tthough the 18.

This was the first time UH’s wheelchair tennis team competed in the collegiate nationals, compared to the other teams, who have been involved in nationals for the last 25 or 30 years. It was also Salinas’ first time ever competing in a tournament.

Khan placed third under the silver bracket singles; Salinas placed second in the bronze bracket singles, and both placed third in doubles.

As they prepare for their next tournament, the wheelchair tennis team is gearing up to put forth a bigger and better funded team.

Khan said everyone with a “10 percent certified disability” can join the team and expand from there. It’s just up to them to make the move.

“When you are on court, you have to leave your excuses behind,” Khan said. “The person across from you could be dealing with much more severe condition than you. So, all you have left to do is push and push, When you see a goal you chase it down, no matter the obstacle.”

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