Noam takes the prize

January 23, 2012 by Elly Shalev
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Noam Gershony, Israel’s leading wheelchair tennis player, who has rapidly made his mark on the International Tennis Federation’s Wheelchair division, with a current ranking of #3 in singles Quads for players with a high disability level and #10 in doubles, has just won the Men’s Quads singles at the 2012 GIO Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Open.

 

In today’s final Gershony won in straight sets 6-4 6-3 over the #1 seed quads singles player John Wagner of the US. The semi-final match against #2 seed Peter Norfolk on Sunday was the first time Gershony dropped a set throughout the tournament.

Noam and his coach Nimrod Bichler now travel to Melbourne where Noam will compete in the Australian Open Wheelchair Championship from January 24 to 28.

Noam Gershany at full stretch Pic: Henry Benjamin

The Israel Tennis Centre and Bichler say 28 year old Noam Gershony brings enormous pride to their country’s special needs tennis. In November last year, Noam achieved a historic result for Israeli wheelchair tennis by winning the Wheelchair Tennis Masters Quads singles. The tournament held in Belgium, was invitation-only with the participation of the top four ranked players in the world. The Israeli faced fierce competition in his matches and fought back from a set down to win the final. After winning the Masters, Noam earned 1,100 ranking points, the most a player can win on tour.

Ironically, Noam says, he took his first tennis lessons (five in total) prior to the helicopter crash which left him paralyzed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel’s defensive military action against the terror group Hezbollah. Gershony was serving as an Apache combat helicopter pilot in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and was the sole survivor of the air crash. After a long rehabilitation process, he began to play tennis and started training professionally.

Coach Nimrod Bichler has worked with wheelchair tennis players at Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv for the past 15 years. Beit Halochem also known as the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization is the central point of care in the rehabilitation of disabled and injured Israel Defence Force (IDF) veterans, as well as Israelis disabled or severely injured by terror attacks, regardless of their religion. Beit Halochem has members who are Jewish, Druze, Moslem and Christian and runs activities that are held specifically with the participation of Arab Israelis.

John Furstenberg, President of the Friends of Beit Halochem Victoria, said “Beit Halochem is a model of care for disabled servicemen, women and terror victims. After Israel’s Ministry of Defence has provided immediate medical treatment, Beit Halochem offers a process of rehabilitation for veterans to re-learn the skills required to return to a normal a life as possible. Often, as in the case of Noam Gershony and many others, they discover they can achieve success in areas not previously experienced, such as competitive sport, art or academia.”

“Beit Halochem takes a holistic approach to care” explains Furstenberg. “It’s 50,000 members across Israel include the veterans’ family members who are involved in every step of the rehabilitation process. This is knowledge that the Israeli organisation seeks to share, particularly at a time when thousands of Australian soldiers are returning home from conflict zones.”

Sam Tatarka, President of the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) said “We congratulate Noam Gershony on his exciting win in Sydney. Noam is an inspiration; he has taken a life-altering experience and turned it into a triumph, for himself and his country. We are looking forward to watching him compete at the Australian Open in Melbourne and wish him the best of luck.”

Now with 49 career singles and 17 doubles for Quads, something tells us Noam Gershony’s opponents will need more luck. Noam’s goal to win points needed to compete at the 2012 London Paralympics appears to be right on course.

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