Year in Review 2011: Rydberg wins gold at Parapan American Games
For Jon Rydberg, 2011 will be one to remember.
Rydberg, the East Ridge girls tennis team head coach, and his doubles partner Steve Welch won gold for the United States at the Parapan American Games held in Guadalajara, Mexico from Nov. 14 through 18.
Every four years over 20 countries from North America and South America gather to compete at the Parapan Am Games. Started in 1999, the Parapan American Games are an international multi-sport event for athletes with a physical disability. This year, an estimated 1,500 athletes competed in 13 different sports from 26 countries.
Rydberg, who was injured in an accident when he was 13 months old and is now in a wheelchair, said this event is special to him because he is representing the United States.
The Parapan American Games features both singles and doubles tennis. This year's U.S. Team was made up of two men and two women. In three of the four medal ceremonies at this year's Games, the U.S. flag was raised and the Star Spangled Banner was played with a U.S. athlete wearing gold.
"It's always a very good feeling to have an event like this where you're not only playing for yourself, but for your country more importantly," Rydberg said at the time. "These events always mean a little more than winning a regular old tournament."
Welch and Rydberg, who had previously won the singles gold medal and the doubles silver medal at the 2007 Parapan Am Games, defeated Argentina's Gustavo Fernandez and Agustin Ledesma 6-2, 6-3 in the championship. Prior to the finals, Rydberg and Welch defeated a duo from Colombia,6-2, 6-3, in the semifinals to reach the championship match.
To qualify for the tournament for the US team, a player must be ranked as one of the top two players in the country. Rydberg, 34, peaked at No. 11 in the world in 2007 and competed in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics. In addition to capturing the singles gold medal at the 2007 Parapan Am Games, he won the doubles silver medal that year with Lee Hinson.
Rydberg has also played in three US Opens, is a two-time Paralympian (2004 and 2008) and is a 10-time United States Wheelchair World Cup team member. Before the last US Open, held in September of 2010, Rydberg was ranked 100th in the world according to the USTA rankings. His current ranking is 58th.
Roughly a year ago, Rydberg got back into competitive tennis, playing in the US Open. Since then, he's kept busy in hope of regaining the form that had him ranked as the No. 1 wheelchair tennis player in the country in years past. The hard work paid off with Rydberg's selection to the US Parapan men's team.