Wimbledon is not the only big tennis event happening this summer – a Belfast-based blind tennis has been announced as a finalist for the prestigious National Lottery Awards, the annual search for the public’s favourite National Lottery-funded projects.

Blind Tennis at Windsor Tennis Club in South Belfast, which is supported by National Lottery investment managed by Sport Northern Ireland and run by Disability Sport NI, is competing in the Best Sport Project category.

The project was initially intended to last six weeks but is now in its second year and has recently seen players begin to compete to an international level.

It beat off stiff competition from more than 700organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with National Lottery funding.

The organisation with the most votes will be crowned the winner and receive a £5,000 cash prize, an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy and attend a star-studded glittering awards ceremony to be broadcast on BBC One on 26 September 2018.

Blind Tennis players use a modified tactile court to orientate, modified rackets based on player classification and audible balls containing bells. Participants on the programme have different levels of sight loss ranging from no sight to partially sighted.

Judith Brennan, Active Clubs Coordinator at Disability Sport NI, said: “We are delighted to learn that the Blind Tennis at Windsor Tennis, Belfast has reached the finals of the National Lottery Awards 2018.

“The programme is proving to be a trailblazer for the sport in Northern Ireland, providing a platform for players to compete recreationally and nationally. In less than two years the programme has secured 15 regular participants and a world number two ranking.

“We have achieved so much in such a short space of time and we would dearly love to win a National Lottery Award for Best Sports project, so please vote for us!”

Congratulating the team on their nomination, Sport Northern Ireland Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said: “Every day, National Lottery players are helping to transform local people’s lives through sport, and Blind Tennis at Windsor Tennis Club is an outstanding example of this. The project has enjoyed tremendous success in supporting people with disabilities to not only get fit and active, but also nurture new friendships, grow in confidence and pursue their sporting ambitions.

On behalf of Sport NI, I would like to congratulate the club on being shortlisted as a finalist for this year’s National Lottery Awards, and thank the coaching staff and delivery partners for the difference they are making. Sport Northern Ireland has been proud to support this project – I would urge everyone to cast their vote, and wish the club and participants every success at the Awards ceremony in September. “

To vote for Blind Tennis at Windsor Belfast go to lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter: hashtag #NLAwards. Voting runs from 9am on 27 June until midnight on 27 July.

There are seven projects competing for votes across seven categories, reflecting the main areas of National Lottery funding: arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport and voluntary/charity.