Tag Archives: wheelchair tennis

SCI Superstar: Gordon Reid

Gordon Reid, affectionately known as “Gio,” is the new darling of the wheelchair tennis world. Last weekend he made history winning the first ever men’s singles title held at Wimbledon, a lifelong dream achieved at only 24 years old. He also won the Australian Open this year. He is on fire.

After Reid became paralyzed at age 13, wheelchair tennis was the therapeutic outlet Reid needed. Now its 11 years later and his therapy has become so much more – a life’s passion, and a ticket to stardom. Read on for the backstory of one of Scotland’s most exciting sports stars.

Why he’s fearless

While growing up in Alexandria, Scotland, Reid loved sports. Soccer was something he loved to watch (a lifelong Rangers FC fan). Tennis however was his passion. He started playing the age of 6. But his whole life changed when he was 13 years old and he began to lose feeling in his legs over a two-day period. When his legs gave way underneath him, he was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis.

A disease that makes the spinal cord swell, it permanently paralyzed Reid from the thighs down. Amazingly, he turned to wheelchair tennis straightaway after returning home from the hospital. In April 2005, only six weeks after returning home, he won his first ever wheelchair tennis title – the B Division Singles at the Glasgow Wheelchair Tennis Tournament. “I didn’t even know wheelchair tennis existed before my injury,” he admits.

Within a couple of years his skill-level skyrocketed. In 2007, he became Britain’s youngest National champion in wheelchair tennis at the age of 15 and at age 16, he was invited to be on the UK Paralympic Tennis team for the Beijing 2008 Summer Paralympics. He played again at the London Paralympics in 2012 where he reached the quarterfinals in singles.

That was four years ago and Reid just keeps getting better. He’s played in the big three – French Open, U.S. Open and the Australian Open since 2013 (and won the French Open and U.S. Open last year). Huge wins for sure, but this year has proven to be the year of dreams coming true.

What’s next?

In January 2016, Reid traveled to Australia for the Australian Open, a title that had eluded him since 2013 and this year he won, securing the first grand slam singles final of his tennis career. Next, he played the French Open where he was a runner up.

But last weekend, on July 10th, 2016, history was made when Reid won the first ever Wimbledon singles match for men’s wheelchair tennis (only wheelchair doubles had been played at Wimbledon until this point), beating out Sweden’s Stefan Olson 6-1 6-4. He also won the wheelchair doubles competition this year at Wimbledon with his partner Alfie Hewitt.

Gordon celebrating his win at Wimbledon 2016

And the court was full, proving Reid’s belief that wheelchair tennis is becoming more respected in the able-bodied world. “I think there’s a mutual respect. I’ve seen the change from the first times I played in Grand Slams three or four years ago,” he told the BBC.

Basking in the light he deserves, Reid truly is accomplishing what he set out to do. He’s always had two goals – to inspire kids with disabilities to play tennis and to show the able-bodied world that athletes with disabilities are to be reckoned with. Needless to say, we can’t wait to see what Reid accomplishes at the Rio Paralympics later this summer.

Do you play wheelchair tennis? How did this sport help you recover?

Like him on Facebook (and follow his recent news)

Follow him on Instagram

Watch the Videos!

2016, Day 13 Wimbledon Highlights, Gordon Reid vs Stefan Olsson

INTERVIEW | Gordon Reid | 06 February 2016 

Andy Murray training alongside Gordon Reid – 19 Feb 2016

Flashback: Gordon Reid: the rising star of wheelchair tennis (featured at age 19)

SCI Superstar: Esther Vergeer

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I love the Netherlands. They have really good pancakes, awesome art and if you use a wheelchair, they give you a sports chair and an entire year of coaching free of charge (ah-hem, moving there now). No wonder this is the awesome place where the effervescently positive Esther Vergeer hails, the reigning queen of wheelchair tennis – winner of 7 Paralympic gold medals and 22 championship titles – unbeaten since 1999.

Why she’s fearless

Esther, now 31 years old, was only 8 years old when she became a paraplegic (a surgery to repair hemorrhaging blood vessels around her spinal cord resulted in paralysis). She’s publicly talked about how hard it was at that age to learn everything all over again. Sleep-overs, playing with her friends, getting dressed, nothing was the same (watch).

But she persevered, and took advantage of the free sporting gift. She became involved in two sports when she was first paralyzed – basketball and tennis – but when she reached college, juggling sports and her studies, she knew she had to pick just one, and wheelchair tennis was her choice. Esther has been unstoppable in this sport for nearly 14 years.

When she first entered the world of competitive wheelchair tennis, it was 1998 and she was only 17. That same year she won the US Open and two years later, she won her first Paralypmic gold medal in Sydney in 2000, winning gold in singles and in doubles (with her partner Maaike Smit).

During her amazing career, she’s had 687 wins and only 25 losses. And 24 of those losses only happened in the first 3 years of her career. After 2001, the only other female wheelchair tennis player who managed to beat her was Daniela Di Toro from Australia). Yes, Esther Vergeer is a rockstar in wheelchair tennis, and in the world of sports too.

And her training regime is intense – she has a tennis coach, a physical trainer (who’s also her boyfriend), a mental trainer, a wheelchair mechanic, a management team and a massage therapist, all helping her stay in top form. Challenging herself continually is what drives her. And Esther has talked about how the sport needs more players (they really do), so streaks like hers don’t go unchallenged for as long (watch).

But she admits (as do I), her streak has been good for one thing – publicity of the sport. In 2010, ESPN The Magazine chose her to grace the cover of their annual ‘Body Issue,” where she posed nude in her tennis chair, causing an uproar of opinions. Esther’s openness has definitely helped the world become more interested in wheelchair tennis.

What’s next

After another successful appearance in the Paralympics, winning a gold medal in singles in London last summer, Esther has finally decided to retire. Yes, this legendary rolling queen of tennis announced last week she’s retiring. She always said if she no longer had nothing to prove, she’d retire. Well, it looks like that time has finally come.

But this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Esther. There are rumors she may head the Netherland’s Olympic committee, in addition to her public speaking, running her foundation for kids with disabilities and writing pursuits. She just released her autobiography last week in fact (to coincide with her retirement no doubt), titled “Kracht & Kwetsbaarheid” (power and vulnerability in Dutch), and a very cool piece of trivia – Roger Federer wrote the forward.

To keep tabs on Esther, who’s about to start the exciting next phase of her life post-competitive sports (and we can expect she’ll be coaching) – follow her site, EstherVergeer.com.

Have you played wheelchair tennis? What is the best way to get more players involved?

Watch the videos!

Esther Vergeer talks about the state of wheelchair tennis on CNN (for the London Paralympics)

Great feature made by Allianz featuring Esther Vergeer, talking about training

Esther Vergeer talks about becoming paralyzed at 8 years old