Sunday, October 17, 2021

Paralympian runs the table

Highland Village resident Pamela Fontaine has a new accolade to her name. The five-time Paralympian has been inducted into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

Fontaine, a retired professor at Texas Wesleyan University, was 16 years old when she was involved in a car accident in New Jersey that left her without the use of her legs.

“It’s awesome to actually achieve that level in any sport you love,” Fontaine said of her Hall of Fame induction. “I’m very lucky to be as athletic as I am.”

How athletic is Fontaine? This is the second Hall of Fame for her. She was also inducted in the National Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. She is a five-time Paralympian – three in table tennis and two in basketball.

Born in 1964 in Columbus, Ohio, Fontaine was 11 when her family moved to New Jersey and became active in various sports growing up, including basketball, softball and volleyball.

Following her injury in 1981 and after being released from a rehab facility, Fontaine discovered wheelchair sports.

“I got out of the hospital in November and went to my first wheelchair basketball practice in December,” she recalled. “When I got out of the hospital, I couldn’t even make a layup because I was so weak. They suggested I get stronger by trying other sports.”

She started playing table tennis in 1982.

She attended Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where she received her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. She also played wheelchair basketball on the college’s men’s team, starting all four years. She played table tennis when she could.

In 1984 Fontaine won a silver medal in doubles for table tennis at the Paralympics in England. She decided to retire from table tennis in 1985 to focus more on basketball.

“I was a basketball player in high school before I got hurt, and I loved the sport,” she said.

Fontaine attended Texas Woman’s University in Denton, where she received her master’s degree. She also founded the Dallas Wheelchair Lady Mavericks basketball team.

She competed in the 1988 and 1996 Paralympics in basketball, winning a gold medal in 1988 and a bronze in 1996. She then returned to playing table tennis and became a three-time silver medalist at both the 2007 and 2011 Parapan American Games for both singles and doubles. In 2009 she won two gold medals at the same Games in both singles and doubles.

Fontaine taught in the kinesiology department at Texas Wesleyan. “I taught a lot of classes over the 13 years I was there — physical education and adapted sports,” she said.

She currently coaches about 25 kids in wheelchair basketball at Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church in Flower Mound.

“We’re always looking for kids with physical disabilities that want to try wheelchair sports,” she said.

Interested? Email Fontaine at [email protected]

“I’ve had an amazing career,” she added.  “I’ve been very lucky.”

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