Grantsville's Hunter enjoys chance to hone wheelchair tennis skills
Nathan Hunter hasn't chosen his favorite from among of the many sports in which he participates, but tennis might have volleyed to the top of the list after his experience in Southern California earlier this month.
Hunter, a 12-year-old from Grantsville, spent five days receiving top-level instruction at the seventh annual USTA-ITF Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp in Mission Viejo, Calif.
The seventh-grader picked up the sport two years ago, but he has yet to play a competitive match. Hunter, who was born with spina bifida, required full-time use of a wheelchair when his knees began to give out at age 5.
"This is my third year playing. It's a sport that I can really do," said Hunter, who also plays basketball, swims and paraskis. "I used to play able-body tennis, but I couldn't keep up with the other kids."
Hunter had no problem keeping up with the 30 other participants at the international camp, which included players ages 12 to 18 from 10 states and six countries Argentina, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S.
Campers participated in daily clinics and received instruction from professionals, including International Tennis Hall of Famer Brad Parks, three-time Paralympic gold medalist and U.S. Open champion David Wagner and USTA national coach Dan James.
"We worked on forehands, serving, backhands and mobility," Hunter said. "On serving, we learned that we always have to get the right toss or it's not going to work."
Hunter also participated in the camp tournament, giving him a feel for what he will face when he starts playing competitively. There are two USTA wheelchair programs in Salt Lake City at Liberty Park and the Salt Lake Swimming & Tennis Club.
Bobbi Hunter, Daniel's mother, said they learned of the annual camp from wheelchair coach Dean Oba during a winter camp in Salt Lake City.
"Sports for kids with disabilities are kind of limited," said Bobbi, who drove Daniel to the camp and then had "mommy time" in Southern California. "He really has a good time with tennis, so that takes up a lot of our summer."
Daniel said he plans to stay in contact with many of the friends he made during the week, including his roommate Paul Shinn, of Los Angeles. He also won't soon forget the group's trip to Universal Studios and Warner Brothers studio, during which they met late-night television host Conan O'Brien.
"I was taught by some of the best players in the world, and that [instruction] will mean a lot to me in the future, Hunter said. "I made a lot of great friends. I'll remember all the friends I made and all the kids I met from different parts of the world."
• Grantsville's Nathan Hunter was one of 31 participants at the seventh annual USTA-ITF Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp in California, held July 28 to Aug. 2.
• Hunter, 12, is in his third year playing tennis and took instruction from a Hall of Famer and a Paralympic gold medalist.
• Players from Argentina, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S. participated in the five-day camp in Mission Viejo.