Wichita native Casey Ratzlaff competing in 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo

Casey Ratzlaff
Posted at 5:18 PM, Aug 19, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Competing in the Paralympics was always a dream of his, and now it's become a reality for Wichita, Kansas native Casey Ratzlaff.

After 10 years competing in the sport, Ratzlaff will compete in Tokyo in the men's singles and doubles for wheelchair tennis.

“I'm super excited, it's going to be the pinnacle of everything I've worked for in my tennis career so far," Ratzlaff said.

Ratzlaff was born with spina bifida, but never let his disability stop him. Ranked 23rd in the world, Ratzlaff will leave for Tokyo on Friday.

“I never looked at myself like I was less than or disabled, I knew I was different, but I never viewed myself as less than," Ratzlaff said.

At the age of 12, Ratzlaff picked up a tennis racket for the first time. It wasn't until his freshman year of high school that he was in a wheelchair full time, having previously used crutches and a walker.

“With or without a wheelchair, what he can do with a racket is incredible," Jeff Clark, Ratzlaff's former coach, said.

Ten years after he picked up the sport, and with the help of his coaches and mentors, Ratzlaff can call himself a Paralympian.

“When I met him, he didn't even know how to push himself around in a wheelchair" Clark said.

As he prepares for Tokyo, Ratzlaff has a message for children of all abilities.

“Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and push your limits," Ratzlaff said.

The 2020 Summer Paralympics will begin Tuesday, August 24 and run through Sunday, September 5.