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I took this from TennisWeek:

Lleyton Hewitt stood alone atop the tennis world after capturing the Tennis Masters Cup crown in Shanghai, China last month to secure the year-end No. 1 ranking for a second successive season. But in a solo sport, Hewitt credited a group of special friends — Special Olympic tennis players — with inspiring his success in Shanghai.

The top-ranked Australian has joined with Special Olympics in its campaign to double the number of Special Olympics athletes worldwide.

“Lleyton will be instrumental in helping Special Olympics reach the next generation of Special Olympics athletes,” said Tim Shriver, President and CEO of Special Olympics. “As one of sport’s brightest young global stars, his commitment to Special Olympics is a tribute to our athletes and a clarion call to the world’s youth that Special Olympics athletes deserve admiration and respect.”

The 21-year-old Hewitt was first introduced to Special Olympics in 1998 by his former coach Peter Smith. Smith hosted tennis clinics in Hewitt’s hometown of Adelaide where Hewitt would speak and play with the Special Olympics athletes.

In 1999, Hewitt was featured in a South Australian-based advertising campaign with the Sport Art and Recreation Council Disability Foundation to raise funds for Australian athletes with physical disabilities. Hewitt’s interest in supporting sport opportunities for all people globally has helped mold his decision to join Special Olympics.

Special Olympics and Hewitt launched their partnership in August 2002 at the U.S. Open. Hewitt hosted a tennis clinic for Special Olympics athletes on Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. Special Olympics athletes from New York and New Jersey received tennis tips and had the opportunity to play with Hewitt. He met with athletes in Sydney after the Special Olympics Australia National Games in September 2002 to congratulate them on their achievements.

In November, Hewitt took time out from his training for the Tennis Masters Cup to launch Special Olympics tennis in China by conducting a tennis clinic with Special Olympics athletes from Shanghai. Tennis will be one of the 19 sports of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games, hosted by the City of Shanghai.

Vice Mayor Feng Guoquin expressed his admiration for Hewitt’s great support for Special Olympics. During the inaugural ceremony, Hewitt exchanged gifts with Special Olympics athletes and presented Special Olympics Shanghai with an autographed tennis racquet.

“I have been fortunate to have earned the title of champion in tennis, but Special Olympics athletes earn that title every day of their lives,” said Hewitt. “I greatly admire the courage and determination of Special Olympics China athletes. Their success over daily challenges is the true definition of champion.”

The tennis launch and clinic was a great success with extensive media exposure, including coverage on nationwide satellite television reaching over 200 million Chinese viewers.

Special Olympics is an international year-round program of sports training and competition for children and youth with mental retardation. More than one million athletes in more than 150 countries train and compete in 26 Olympic-type summer and winter sports.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with mental retardation continuing opportunities to develop fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy as they participate in the sharing of gifts and friendship with other athletes, their families, and the community.
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