MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A sport with deep roots in Myrtle Beach, is spreading its grasp to include athletes of all abilities. The Myrtle Beach Pickleball Club hosted an elite player out of Quebec, Canada at their league play games Monday at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.
“I really want to be a mentor for other wheelchair athletes,” Sylvestre began. “We are just starting as a sport. I only know about 15 people who play in Quebec.”
Jean Francois Sylvestre fell in love with tennis from a young age, but says the skills between both sports are easy to translate. Francios is making a pit stop in Myrtle Beach, heading to the US Open later this year to compete against other elite pickleballers.
Francois and a partner will compete in hybrid matches, meaning the pair will compete against a pair of able-bodied athletes. The winning team takes home a grand prize of $50,000.
Wheelchair competitors play with a different set of rules. Players are allowed to let a ball bounce twice before having to put it back into play.
Jim Loving, President of the Myrtle Beach Pickleball Club, says wheelchair divisions are just part of the Grand Strand community continuing to embrace the growing sport.
“When I first started playing about two years ago we only had about 40 or so players,” Loving began. He estimates about 600 active players now participate through their league throughout the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.
The group hosted the largest pickleball tournament in the state of South Carolina in 2018 and plans to expand the 2019 tourney to include a wheelchair division.