Kelani Lawrence Shines in Pan Am Games

Kelani Bailey Lawrence kisses her two bronze Pan American Games medals.
Kelani Lawrence with doubles partner Rhonda Rajsich and their Pan Am medals

It’s been quite the warm season for Roanoker Kelani Bailey Lawrence, who began with a national championship in racquetball in May and followed that with two bronze medals at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, July 26-Aug. 11.

As reported here earlier, the young Salem YMCA membership coordinator, won a national singles title at the USA Racquetball Championships at Highlands Ranch, Colorado, in the spring. She shared the USA Racquetball title in 2018. (My Roanoker magazine story here.)

At the Pan Am games she won bronze medals in doubles with partner Rhonda Rajsich (40-year-old veteran player and former national champ from Phoneix) and with the USA team. She lost in the quarterfinals of the singles competitions. The lack of a title was not discouraging, she says. “I continued to improve throughout the tournament,” she says. “The South American teams rock it in racquetball. It is the No. 2 sport in Bolivia and has government support in several countries.”

Kelani relaxes on the Pan Am logo.

The team had little time to explore the coastal city of Lima (which was an hour and a half away from the Pan Am venue). “We would wake up, eat, go to the competition, play, go back, eat and sleep. We did find the food amazing. Peru is known for its food, especially the fish, which I loved.”

The tournament took place during the Peruvian winter and “it was in the 50s and 60s most days and overcast most of the time we were there.”

She gets back to work in September, returning to her home area of Chesapeake for a pro tournament run by her mother, Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey. Kelani says her mom will play in the tournament, but it is unlikely the two will face each other.

(Photos courtesy Kelani Lawrence.)


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Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. On Advisory Board of New River Voice.

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