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With a lifetime of tennis ahead, local player sets Olympic goal

With a lifetime of tennis ahead, local player sets Olympic goal
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 11:35 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - When athletes make their way into the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, they will go in knowing they are the best in the world at what they do. Gabriel Baldwin isn’t there yet, but at the age of 12 he’s well on his way to achieving a goal he set as a ten-year-old - competing in the Olympics.

“It’s something that I’ve thought about, yes.” said Gabriel. “Actually, I dream about it and I know it can happen.”

Gabriel is currently ranked 38th in the North Carolina in the boys 12 and under division – he’s also inside the top 200 in the Southern District. Not bad for a kid who got into the game because of the keen eye of his phys-ed teacher at Carolina Beach Elementary School...

“I started hitting the ball with coach Maggie [Bellamy] and she said “wow Gabriel, you’re really good at this” and I said “thank you” and she said “have you ever considered playing tennis” and I was like “no I never thought about that.”

Now, it’s almost all Gabriel thinks about.

A product of the One Love Tennis Program in Wilmington, Gabriel learned the game from Lenny Simpson who has paid the game forward since he was given his first tennis racket by Althea Gibson. The history and importance of the facility aren’t lost on Gabriel.

“It means everything to me. It’s my past and even when I’m grown up, I’ll still come back here.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if one day he continued the ‘giving back’ mentality of One Love Tennis, but these days it’s the game that is shaping life lessons for Gabriel.

“Before I figured out what tennis was and started getting into the game.” Gabriel said. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. But then tennis opened up an opportunity for me that I didn’t know I would get to have.”

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