17-year-old Rotem Ashkenazi, who trains at the ITC – Ramat Hasharon, was crowned world champion at the inaugural 2015 World Deaf Tennis Championships in Nottingham, England, this past weekend. Organized by the Tennis Foundation, the leading tennis charity in Great Britain, the tournament featured deaf athletes from 20 different countries around the world.
Deaf since birth, Rotem started playing tennis when she was 6 years old. At the age of 12, she joined the ITC – Ramat Hasharon and today she is the only female deaf competitive tennis player in Israel. For the past few years she has played national tournaments as a member of the ITC National Girls Team and is currently ranked 21st in the Israeli U-18 category. She volunteers at the ITC coaching younger children with disabilities and is a recipient of the prestigious ITC’s Cohen Mintz Tennis Scholarship.
Rotem is an extraordinary positive and determined young woman who has never let her hearing impairment slow her down in any way. As her father proudly noted, she views the ITC as “her second home… really her main home. “ He went on to thank Eyal Taoz, ITC – Ramat Hasharon Manager, for giving her the tools to excel in her daily life. Click to see his remarks: https://youtu.be/G8Tz08T1iws
The World Deaf Championships was Rotem’s first time playing against other deaf players. She not only defeated the best deaf tennis players in the world, she vanquished them, dropping only two games in the three matches in which she competed. In the finals, Rotem breezed to an 8 – 1 victory over Jana Janosikova of Slovakia. Her incredible success is testimony to the impact of ITC’s social impact programs in helping Israeli children of all backgrounds, with or without disabilities. These include those with special needs like Rotem, Youth At-Risk, Coexistence and Immigrant Assimilation.
“I was very interested to play against other deaf players, since I’ve only ever played against hearing players at the ITC,” said Rotem. “I was curious to meet so many people with hearing disabilities from around the world. Most of all, I was very excited to represent Israel.” And what a great ambassador she is! Rotem’s training at the ITC – Ramat Hasharon has given her the ability to become a champion both on and off the court.
Empowering Israel’s Children…Beyond Tennis and Beyond Borders
Founded in 1976, the Israel Tennis Centers (ITC) is one of the largest social service organizations for children in Israel, serving over 20,000 Israeli children every year. The ITC’s 14 centers stretch from Kiryat Shmona in the North to Beer Sheva in the South. Many of these centers are in underprivileged neighborhoods, providing disadvantaged children with a safe, structured and nurturing environment.
The ITC offers uniquely designed programs to meet the specific needs of its children:
- Social Impact: assisting youth at risk, those with special needs such as Down Syndrome and autism and children of new immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia
- Coexistence: bringing together Israeli Jews, Arabs, Bedouins and Druze to play and learn
- High Performance: training Israeli children to excel as tennis players.
All of these programs are open to all children living in Israel, regardless of background, religious affiliation or economic circumstance. No child is ever turned away.