Wednesday September 26, 2007
Jonathan Fried is no Roger Federer, but he may just be the most successful tennis player you've never heard of.
"We gave him a racket and a ball and a wall," his mom, Barbara recalls. "The repetitiveness appealed to him."
John and Barbara Fried started their mentally handicapped son on tennis when he was just ten years old. Now 35 years later, he's bound for China and the Special Olympic Games.
"At an early age when we were told 'oh, institutionalize him. He's never gonna walk, he's never gonna talk.' Thank goodness we didn't listen," Barbara says.
In 1995 at the age of 33, Jonathan won gold at the Special Olympic Games in Connecticut in both singles and doubles. With help from a tennis coach, he's honed his craft at Innisfree Village in Crozet, a living and learning program for handicapped people of all ages.
Jonathan is able to use an indoor tennis facility, where he practices about two hours each day. Much of the rest of his time is spent working in the bakery or participating in Innisfree's woodworking program.
Now 12 years after his initial triumph, with some more miles on him and decidely less hair, Jonathan's hoping for more olympic glory.
"He's done more with what he has than anybody I know," his mother gushes. "It's just by sheer hard work that he's been able to do what he has."
So what's mom's prediction on Jonathan's medal count this time around?
"We'll see what happens. He'll enjoy it and I think he'll do his best."
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