Another recent UTC women's tennis player, Jenna Nurik, made the Maccabi USA women's open team for the Maccabiah Games, which run through Tuesday in Jerusalem.
Daniel and Emily Hangstefer have played tennis at national levels. They've played for fun and they've played for schools.
Now they're playing for their country.
The siblings who grew up on Signal Mountain were selected to participate in the 22nd Summer Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria, while their sister, Katie Mancebo, was designated as a coach. Tennis is one of 19 sports being played at the Deaflympics, which began Friday evening with the opening ceremonies and will end on Aug. 4.
An athlete in the Deaflympics, which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, must have a hearing loss of 55 decibels or greater in his or her better ear, and no hearing devices are allowed during competition. Daniel and Emily Hangstefer are not totally deaf but require closed captioning to watch television.
According to USA Deaf Tennis leader Howard Gorrell, the lingering financial crisis in the original host country, Greece, led to a venue move, and it wasn't until last September that the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf agreed on Sofia. That gave countries less than one year to prepare their representative teams.
The USA Deaf Tennis Federation committee of administrators, former players and coaches came up with a streamlined selection process.
"The due diligence in the selection criteria and our contacts in various USTA regions helped identify Daniel and Emily Hangstefer as top candidates for Team USA," Gorrell said. "Once the Hangstefer siblings agreed to commit to the Sofia Games, they identified their sister Katie as a coaching candidate."
Team USA grew from those Chattanooga connections.
Katie Hangstefer Mancebo, who is not hearing impaired, played tennis at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga from 1998 to 2002, then spent a year as Covenant College's head coach before five seasons as the Wofford College head coach. She now coaches at the Spartanburg Athletic Club in South Carolina.
Brother Daniel played No. 1 singles and doubles at Lipscomb University from 2007 to '10 and recently became the head coach of Metropolitan State University of Denver. Emily finished her career at UTC in 2012, playing singles and doubles.
For the two playing in the Deaflympics, it is a great opportunity, even if they're entering the land of the unknown.
"We don't know much about the level of competition there, so I've been training as hard as I can," Daniel said before departing the U.S. "I'm just going to be ready for any competition that'll be there."
Emily said this is a chance to expand her game.
"I'm going into it with no expectations," she said. "I'd love to win a medal, but I don't know what the competition is. It could be good, so I'm taking a whatever-happens approach."
Daniel said the chance to represent the United States at any capacity is too good an opportunity to pass up.
"It's a great honor and means a lot to me," he said. "It will be a great opportunity to spread the Word as well as to educate others about being deaf."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.
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