Rubber Duckies win with sportsmanship
U.S. Tennis Association League National Championships, usually a place for serious socializing and more serious tennis playing, took a sweet turn thanks to Hawai'i's Rubber Duckies team.
Carl Bigby, captain of the Serve and Volley team from Minnesota, injured his knee during his team's match against the Rubber Duckies at the 6.0 Mixed Doubles National Championship in Tucson, Ariz., the end of last year. Kristopher Li and Madeline Chun, his opponents, took the high road and tried to hit every ball to Bigby's partner the rest of the match, despite trailing 3-1 in the second set.
Li and Chun went on to win, 6-4, 6-3. The Rubber Duckies, a group of players who usually practice at Farrington and are from "everywhere from 'Ewa Beach to Hawai'i Kai," won its flight and reached the national final, only to lose to New Jersey. Even that accomplishment was ultimately overshadowed by Li and Chun's gesture of sportsmanship.
"I decided to finish the match after the medical timeout because I didn't want to give up the games we had won," Bigby wrote in an email to the USTA's Hawai'i Section. "Now picture a 280-pound man with tears running down his face standing at the net knowing he can't run, walk or move and also knowing his opponents knew that as well.
"That shot I ran after (prior to the injury) was the last shot I was to hit for the rest of the match. Instead of taking advantage of my situation, Kris and Madeline hit every ball at my partner Sue Lundeen. The one ball that inadvertently came to me they apologized for. Guys, I have never witnessed a more sportsmanlike act in my life at the amateur or pro level. I just want to say hats off to Hawai'i, and Kris and Madeline. This is something I will never forget."
Bigby's team came to the nationals shorthanded because one of its players passed away. He was forced to play again the next day and that team went after him, Bigby told Rubber Duckies captain Andrea Neal.
"He was a very sweet, very complimentary man," Neal said. "My team is awesome. We have the nicest, nicest people. He was so blown away when our players were not giving him a bad time."
The rest of the competitors were also impressed.
"We had so many people constantly coming up and talking about how great that was," Neal said. "It was overwhelmingly better than well, it might have been better to take first place but it's much sweeter to have people take the time to say how nice you are."
Neal has another shot at a national championship in April. Her senior (50-older) mixed team has qualified for nationals in Florida.
UH'S ACE TO SUCCESS GETS $12,000 GRANT
The University of Hawai'i's Ace to Success program has received a $12,000 grant from USTA Serves. The philanthropic and charitable arm of the USTA announced 24 year-end grants under its "Aces for Kids" umbrella, worth a total of $297,325.
USTA Serves awards grants to programs that successfully combine tennis and education and help children "pursue their goals and highest dreams by succeeding in school and becoming responsible citizens."
Aces for Kids is a national initiative of USTA Serves. It strives to promote healthy lifestyles by combating childhood/adult obesity and providing at-risk children the opportunity to learn to play tennis and improve their academic skills in a structured format. Children between the ages of 5 and 18 learn about healthy nutrition and lifestyles, responsible citizenship, study skills, and computer literacy, interact with a mentor and other students, attend college preparatory sessions and learn to play tennis in a team format.
UH plans to use the funds to launch a tennis program for approximately 120 underprivileged kids that will include tennis lessons and nutrition, life and education mentoring.
Ala Moana Tennis Club received one of 23 USTA Wheelchair Program grants. More than $34,000 was awarded to organizations that "promote and develop the growth of wheelchair tennis and use the sport of tennis to build stronger, healthier communities."
U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters and daughter Jada have been immortalized as a Barbie doll and a mini-Barbie. The dolls were introduced this week in Belgium, where Clijsters is from. Jada is almost 2. There is no "Ken" doll based on her father, Brian Lynch, an American who met Clijsters while he was playing professional basketball overseas.