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DETERMINATION MEETS INSPIRATION TO BUILD PARALYMPIC DREAMS



Hallee McCoombes may only be 11 years old, but her resolve to overcome adversity and be a shining example of sporting ability is bringing her to Melbourne this summer to meet the best wheelchair tennis players in the world.


A spirited athlete from Bundaberg, Hallee was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, but has defied the odds to become an inspiring young girl who wants to show other kids with disability that anything is possible. On hearing Hallee’s story, Hume Tennis & Community Centre, host of the first two international (ITF) wheelchair tournaments each year, has provided Hallee the opportunity to travel to Melbourne to herself be inspired.


“We came across Hallee’s story and wanted to play our part in fostering her love of tennis and

helping her be part of an incredible community,” Hume’s Director, Tim Connelly said.


“Supporting Hallee’s dream, and those of other children living with challenging physical conditions, is what drives us to deliver our programs, and we wanted Hallee to experience the tournament and meet these heroes while they are here in Australia. I hope she finds them as awe-inspiring as we do.”


“Hallee has a wonderful attitude, and we really connected with her message to encourage and show other kids what they are able to achieve. She has undergone multiple spinal surgery and brain surgeries and defied the odds and the expectations of all, including her doctors. We are grateful to be helping her share such a motivating message, and to assist families and individuals to play tennis.”


Hallee is already an Australian triathlon champion, incredibly running – with no feeling in her waist or below her knees, and only vibrations through her body to guide her – and swimming without being able to kick.


In Melbourne for a week, Hallee will have the opportunity to meet the best wheelchair players in the world, play with other junior wheelchair athletes and have coaching at the Hume Wheelchair Hub, and go to the Australian Open with other athletes. She is also hoping to meet one of her heroes, former world No.1 Quad Wheelchair Tennis player and 2022 Australian of The Year, Dylan Alcott.


“I started playing wheelchair tennis and am learning a lot, but at home there isn’t really anyone for me to play with. I’m excited about being in Melbourne and playing with other kids.


I’m a bit nervous but I think I’m going to like it,” Hallee said.


“I am really looking forward to seeing all the best players from around the world and going to the Australian Open, but most of all I would love to meet Dylan Alcott. I follow him on social media, and he is why I wanted to try playing tennis,” she said.


Hallee was introduced to wheelchair tennis by Les Killer from Bundaberg Tennis Club when she was the only attendee at a ‘Come & Try’ day for people with disabilities. While Hallee is only starting out in wheelchair tennis there’s no doubt that if she sets her mind to it, she could one day join the court with some of the players she will meet.


Hallee’s parents were told before she was born that their little girl would never walk. And while it is an enormous effort for Hallee, her parents and siblings, it is an incredibly rewarding one for thefamily of five. Her twin sister Jada is Hallee’s biggest supporter and the one who inspired Hallee to start athletics. Jada began running and Hallee thought ‘well if you can do so can I’.


Hallee also loves athletics (which she started age six) and has achieved six Australian records across multiple events, but at the elite and Paralympic level, there are no athletics events she can compete in (with her condition/classification). Fortunately, Hallee loves tennis, and the sport has implemented frameworks over recent years to make it accessible to people of all abilities.


“Tennis is committed to ensuring the accessibility of our sport to people of all abilities whilst

providing safe and inclusive pathways and we are proud to partner with a broad range of

organisations who help inform and shape best practice in the delivery of tennis for all,”


“Events such as the Victorian Wheelchair Open play an important role in the player development pathway and we wish everyone involved, including Hallee, the very best of luck,” Tennis Australia Chief Tennis Officer, Tom Larner, said.


“We take great pride in hosting international wheelchair events, collaborating with Tennis Australia, and partners Stockland, the State Government and Hume City Council to provide opportunities for players to start playing wheelchair tennis. Through this partnership we are able to bring Hallee down to Hume in Melbourne and experience this wonderful wheelchair community for the first time,” Tim Connelly said.


“Hume Tennis is one of the largest wheelchair hubs in Australia and we continue to build what we do because we believe in and are inspired by the players on a daily basis; the resolve and the skill and level of play continues to rise and is fantastic to watch.”


Paralympic medallist and UK’s highest ranked female player, Lucy Shuker, who is playing in Australia this summer has also been impressed by Hallee and sent the budding athlete a video message this week.


“Like Hallee I always loved sport, but I didn’t get into wheelchair tennis until I was in my 20s following an accident. It’s so great to see young female players coming in and loving the sport which has given me so much. I’m looking forward to meeting Hallee next week and sharing some of my experiences,” Lucy said.


Australian Open 2023 will host the first ever All Abilities Day on Tuesday 24 January to celebrate and provide opportunities for all members of our diverse community to experience and enjoy the AO.


Spina Bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly – Hallee was born with her spine on the outside of her body. Hydrocephalus is swelling due to excess fluid on the brain.

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