Emperors Palace takes budding young tennis stars on trip of a lifetime
24 August 2009
Emperors Palace Hotel Casino Convention Resort, together with Let’s Play, John-Laffnie de Jager’s Foundation and SA Tennis Development will be taking four promising young South African tennis players on a trip of a lifetime. Not only will the children be hosted by tennis legend Billie Jean King, but they will also see how the world’s top tennis players battle it out at the US Open.
Departing 28 August and returning 4 September, the all expenses paid trip, which includes sightseeing and a Broadway show in New York, has been sponsored and arranged by Emperors Palace. The four youths will not only watch the US Open with King in her own private suite, but will also be spending some time at World Team Tennis (WTT) headquarters. WTT is an information platform for media, sponsors, and all tennis fans to access. It contains details of players and tournaments and has a special area for kids that allow them to request their favourite player’s autographs. Started by King and her former husband Lawrence King, the organisation also aims to understand the mechanics of what goes into a Grand Slam Tournament like the US Open.
Recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, King visited South Africa in December last year to hand over a R1 million cheque to the East Rand Children’s Trust, a development initiative founded and run by Emperors Palace. King and Emperors Palace soon went into discussions to launch this second stage of the initiative.
Two children from SA Davis Cup team captain John-Laffnie de Jager’s Tennis Academy and two from SA Tennis Development have shown exceptional potential and were selected for this trip. The budding young tennis players are Jacobus Hermanus Pieters from Pretoria, Madrie le Roux from the Eastern Cape, Capetonian Jody Alan Claassen and Christine Masite from Alexandra in Gauteng.
An overwhelmed Classen says, “I couldn’t believe my luck when I was approached by my coach. This is a once in a life time opportunity and I am already counting down the days. I have never been overseas and to be chosen makes me feel very proud. Without Emperors Palace and John-Laffnie de Jager’s Foundation, this would never have been possible.”
Emperors Palace hopes this initiative will highlight sports development around South Africa, especially in the previously disadvantaged communities. Peermont Chief Corporate Affairs Executive, Vusi Zwane and Clinton Edwards from Emperors Palace will be accompanying the children on the trip. Zwane says, “Emperors Palace aims to encourage a number of these initiatives as we firmly believe in sports development in South Africa. Together with Billie Jean King and John-Laffnie de Jager, we felt this was a perfect opportunity to reward these talented youths for their dedication and hard work with a trip of a lifetime. Not only is sport great for physical fitness, but it is a great medium for education while the kids are having fun. We are honoured to be given the opportunity to make a lasting positive impact on these kids’ lives”.
John-Laffnie de Jager’s Foundation was set up to address the plight of sport in South Africa and assist in bringing sport to the masses. The foundation aims to identify outstanding talent and then coach that talent to ensure they fulfill their potential and dreams. De Jager’s Foundation places special emphasis on previously disadvantaged communities while there is also a focus on education in HIV/Aids, drugs, nutrition and social interaction. John-Laffnie de Jager’s Foundation supports various projects, including the Muriel Brand School that makes provision for learners with physical and learning abilities, and the Akani Diepsloot Foundation that provides aftercare for nearly 500 children in the Diepsloot community.
Billie Jean King, winner of 39 grand slam titles and a Sunday Times Sports Women of the Year Lifetime Achievement award winner for her contribution to sport both on and off the court, says, “I am very excited to host the kids from South Africa.” King, who continues to promote equal rights in tennis across the world, adds, “Emperors Palace has been integral in getting this project off the ground. It’s an initiative that’s very close to my heart and I am delighted to be involved in this particular project”.
Emperors Palace will be hosting a practice session and media event on 27 August at the Emperors Palace tennis court for the children and all those involved in the initiative before they fly out to Billie Jean King.