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Turning Adversity into Achievement

August 28, 2003 09:11 AM

by Marc Kaplan

It often takes personal tragedy to start one on the path to personal success. Such was the case for Columbia, SC's Bob Masella and Atlanta, GA’s Tiffany Geller, both of whom had their lives forever changed in the blink of an eye.

Bob Masella
At the age of twenty-two, Bob Masella was involved in a horrific automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. An All-American soccer player at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, Bob was a self-confessed “happy go lucky college student without a care in the world.” His sense of invincibility came to an abrupt end after learning that he would never walk again.

While in rehabilitation he met many people who showed him that this was not the end of his life, but rather a new beginning. During his recovery Bob saw a documentary featuring legendary wheelchair tennis player Brad Parks. This inspirational piece prompted him to try his hand at wheelchair tennis.

Bob quickly grew to be a strong player and entered his first tournament in 1984. Since entering that event Bob has competed in events throughout the country, including seven US Opens. He and Randy Snow are the 2002 Doubles Masters Champions of the PTR/ROHO Championship in Hilton Head, SC.

While mastering wheelchair tennis might be enough for some people, Bob decided to participate in the USA League Tennis program, playing with able-bodied competitors. He has successfully captained teams in both the USA League Tennis and USA League Tennis Mixed Doubles programs, winning the Mixed State Championships in 2000 and 2003.

“I prefer playing tennis with able-bodied competitors. While I have made some life-long friends playing wheelchair tennis, I love the challenge and team camaraderie that comes from playing League Tennis.”

Bob, a member of TEAM QUICKIE since 1999, travels around the country helping to promote the advancement of wheelchair tennis.

He and his wife Mia have two daughters, Mallory, 8, and Franny, 5. After working many years as an attorney, he is currently a Municipal Court Judge in Columbia.

“Being in a wheelchair has changed my life for the better. It has completely altered my focus and I don’t think I would have a successful career or family without this experience.”

Geller teaching a beginning wheelchair player at Blazesports Camp.
Thirty-year-old Tiffany Geller’s story is similar to that of Masella. Born and raised in Lansing, MI, Tiffany started playing tennis her sophomore year of high school. At the age of 16 and just months after making her school’s junior varsity team she, too, was involved in an automobile accident, resulting in severe spinal cord trauma and paralysis from the waist down.

Tiffany was introduced to wheelchair tennis while in rehabilitation after meeting Amy McKnight, a one time top wheelchair player. She began playing shortly after leaving the hospital and as her game improved she started entering wheelchair tournaments. A few months later Tiffany held the nation’s No. 1 junior ranking.

Wheelchair tennis has dramatically broadened Tiffany’s horizons and helped establish her independence at an early age. She has traveled the world competing in wheelchair tournaments and has shared her experiences with many people, wheelchair bound and able-bodied alike.

“I have met so many wonderful tennis players through my travels who have encouraged me to go after my goals. I realize that whatever the challenge I can accomplish anything.”

Tiffany is currently ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. and No. 63 in the world. She has captured countless titles in her career and most recently she won the Women’s Open Doubles title at the 2002 PTR/ROHO Championship.

“I do not see my handicap as a challenge anymore. As a matter of fact I find that my biggest obstacle is convincing people that I am an athlete first and a person in a wheelchair second.”

Away from the game Tiffany, who lives in Atlanta, earned a Master’s Degree from Georgia State University in 2002 and interned for the USTA Southern Section. She currently teaches tennis to aspiring wheelchair players and works as an Assistant Program Manager for the U.S. Disabled Athletes Fund. She also serves on both the USTA Southern Section and National Wheelchair Tennis Committees.




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