Shelby was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that has resulted in weakness in her legs. Until the third grade, Shelby walked around school with crutches and sat out of most PE activities. When she was nine years old, Lolly Romano, an adaptive PE specialist with the Department of Education, introduced her to a wheelchair. This allowed her to participate in most sports along with her classmates. With this new piece of equipment, Shelby discovered I could go further. She began playing wheelchair basketball with Coach Jeff Sampaga every Thursday as a way to get exercise, and was referred to a Tuesday night wheelchair tennis class. Tennis was frustrating at first, but she felt so good each time she hit a ball back over the net. After a couple of years, Shelby joined a US Tennis Association (USTA) junior team with able-bodied players. She strived to get better so she could compete.
During the summer of 2010, Shelby attended a USTA-ITF (International Tennis Federation) Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp in Mission Viejo, California. It was the first time she played tennis with another junior player in a wheelchair. Shelby was inspired to work hard because she knew those players weren’t letting their disability slow them down. After that week in California, and seeing the level of competition at the camp, Shelby recognized that she had potential to compete also. She played her first wheelchair tournament in November 2010 in Taipei, Taiwan. She placed third in singles and claimed the doubles title with her partner from Thailand, Sirimat Traiphueak. She played two more tournaments within the next three months, including the Cajun Classic in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she won the junior singles and doubles. Because of her performance, she was invited to play in the 2011 ITF World Team Cup representing the USA. The tournament was held in Pretoria, South Africa in April 2011. Shelby played in the first position for the juniors, and she and her team were able to capture a fifth place finish for Team USA.
In September, 2011, she competed in Montreal, Canada, and then in Hilton Head, South Carolina. In Montreal she was a finalist in the women’s doubles with her partner, KG Montjane from South Africa. In Hilton Head she won the junior singles, doubles, and the women’s consolation in singles.
At the beginning of this year, Shelby traveled to France to attend Les Petits As, the junior master’s event. She was a finalist in singles and claimed another doubles title with her partner, Busra Un from Turkey. After that, she traveled to Thailand and Baton Rouge a second time, and to Pensacola.
Most recently, Shelby represented the US Juniors a second time in the 2012 BNP Paribas World Team Cup, held this year in Seoul, South Korea. An exciting event, the US Juniors took 2nd place, their best finish since 2003, after beating the top seed, Great Britain.
Shelby values the opportunities she has had to see many great players from around the world. She is determined to improve her game and physical fitness in order to keep up with the top players. Her goal is to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil. In the meantime, she will be training every week and working hard to balance her tennis with her schoolwork. Shelby just graduated from Punahou School with an impressive 3.75 GPA, and she will be starting off at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the fall. Keep up with her experiences through her blog on the home page!