Physical disability for the longest time has been seen as the opposite of physical fitness, an important aspect when it comes to Sports.
Born in July 1981, Esther Vergeer, a retired Dutch wheelchair tennis player began having health problems at the age of six, when she became unconscious due to a build-up of fluids in her brain.
After a series treatments two years down the line, a nine-hour operation left her paralyzed from the waist down, when she was just eight years old.
Vergeer however, found a lifeline through Sports as it made her regain confidence and became more positive and independent, making her stronger, physically and mentally.
Vergeer was not belittled by the physical challenge and with a tough mental attitude she thrived and was later considered most dominant player in professional sports.
Upon her retirement in 2013, she had over her entire sporting career won 695 single matches, losing only 25 with some of the notable achievements including 21 Grand Slam titles, 14-year-end championship titles and 4 Paralympic titles.
Moreover, she won 136 titles in double matches, including 27 at Grand Slams, an undefeated record stretching for almost 10 years straight, a tough if not impossible milestone for other athletes to break.
With Vergeer earning three Paralympic doubles’ gold medals, and being part of the Dutch World Cup Team winning 12 times, she was awarded the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, in 2002 and 2008.
Vergeer’s decision to retire at the age of 32 did not come as a surprise to her fans as she was still at the peak of her career. She was popular because she was never an arrogant champion but instead had a simple desire to always do better.
Vergeer admitted being a role model for young players felt weird and said realizing that other people were inspired by her story was the biggest compliment she had ever received.
In her post-tennis career, she remains involved in the sport as a big promoter of the increased integration of Paralympic and Olympic sports, she says it’s her dream to bring the worlds of able-bodied and disabled athletes together.