Cheering For Invictus

A slew of enthusiastic spectators crowded Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto Monday to witness the semi-finals and finals wheelchair tennis matches of the 2017 Invictus Games

By Brittany Martin

A large crowd is seen at the final day of wheelchair tennis at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. (Photo by Courtney Verrill)

A slew of enthusiastic spectators crowded Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto Monday to witness the semi-finals and finals wheelchair tennis matches of the 2017 Invictus Games.

Among those in the crowd were a group of 58 fifth-grade students and their teachers from St. Brendan Catholic School in Scarborough, Ontario.


Joseph Span-Vierra, 10, cheer for team Australia at the wheelchair tennis competition at the 2017 Invictus Games. (Photo by Courtney Verrill)

The students’ teacher, Megan Biskupski, said one of the students, 10-year-old Joseph Span-Vierra, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, so they thought it would be good for him to see some athletes play in a wheelchair.

Span-Vierra enjoys playing soccer and hockey and plays baseball with his dad. He was rooting for Team Australia and said the thing he likes most is watching the ball.

The students said they were having fun, even though it was a hot day. They even got a glimpse of a Prince Harry look-alike. The students spotted the man, who looked strikingly similar to the English dignitary, walking through the crowd. They shouted and ran around him, giving him hugs, but they were quickly disappointed as the man explained to them that he wasn’t actually the prince.

The real Prince Harry did attend the wheelchair tennis event later in the afternoon to root for Team United Kingdom 1 and 2 as they battled each other in the semi-finals. The duo of Kevin Drake and Alexander Krol advanced to the gold-medal match to face Glenn Barnes and Aaron Gibbs of New Zealand and finally knocked off Team New Zealand 6-4 in the final.

Barnes had family in the audience to cheer him on, including his father-in-law, Edwin Kornel, who flew in from Germany. The 77-year-old Kornel himself was a high-level wheelchair tennis player, coach and referee and served as president of the German Federation of Wheelchair Tennis from 2007 to 2014.

“Our family’s so big, and so many are living here and Germany and Australia and New Zealand, so we said we’d make a small meeting here,” Kornel says.

Kornel, who organized 35 international wheelchair tennis tournaments during his tenure with the German Federation of Wheelchair Tennis, said he was sure his son-in-law would make the semi-finals.

“He’s a good player. He was about ranking 50 or 60 when he played my tournament in Nuremburg, Germany,” Kornel says. “When we play tennis, it’s for prize money or points to get our ranking in ITF (International Tennis Federation). It’s not professional [at Invictus] but it’s good to see, and I’m here because my daughter’s here.”

 

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