Chris Christenbury is fresh off the most amazing experience of his 33 year Special Olympics career, the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey! Over the past year, the 43 year-old from Mecklenburg County has been rapidly improving and practicing at a higher level of tennis to prepare for his performance in the 2014 USA Games. Chris was playing short court tennis which is a transition game between individual skills competition and full court tennis. All play takes place within the double lines. Chris was challenged with stepping up his game for the national stage and playing full court tennis in New Jersey.
“We worked with them (Chris and his doubles partner Kristin Hunter) on things such as movement, it takes more movement and coverage, Chris was very open to suggestions and ideas, not uptight about failing it or mastering it, willing it give it a shot,” said Chris’ longtime coach Bob Bowler.
Chris just started playing tennis doubles with Team NC athlete, Kristin Hunter within the past year and they competed together in NJ to earn the silver medal in the highest division! He also won a bronze medal in singes competition. Playing full court tennis was not an easy transition but Chris made it happen with patience and his optimistic attitude.
“He has a very positive upbeat attitude, always has a smile, comes out to play and have fun, he does his best and enjoys it, and takes instructions very well, never really has a negative attitude, he’s just a good all-around athlete, that enjoys being a part of the program,” Coach Bowler said with pride.
Special Olympics has allowed Chris to pursue his love for sports. He enjoys watching all kinds of sports. He loves to attend high school football games because it allows him to see all the action in person. He also enjoys watching college football games on TV and is a big fan of college basketball and NASCAR too. “His grandfather used to take him to watch different sports games, now others are happy to take Chris,” Coach Bowler commented.
Chris and Coach Bowler have been quite good friends for the past 20 years. “He calls me every day to check on me, or remind me of something, such as reminders to watch Andy Roddick, and this past week he even called to remind me to watch the show on FOX about the USA Games,” said Coach Bowler. “We’re all like family here and I love to see these athletes be recognized because they deserve it, it makes me very proud” said Bowler.
Outside of improving his tennis game, for the past three years Chris has spent his time serving as the assistant coach for a 3-on-3 basketball team. “Chris isn’t able to play basketball, so we wanted him to stay involved with a sport he loves so assistant coaching works great, we thought he would enjoy coaching since he has such a good attitude,” said Coach Bowler.
On top of basketball and tennis this well-rounded athlete volunteers at the Senior Living Facility and is an active member of his church which has allowed him to make lots of good friends. He even finds time to work at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Charlotte.
Congratulations Chris for being 2014 SONC July “Athlete of the Month”! Keep up the good work!
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