* This post is written by one of our volunteer ambassadors - it is not sponsored. *
My name is Lucy Shuker, I am a Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis Player. I started playing wheelchair tennis in 2002 after I had a motorbike accident in 2001 that resulted in me being paralysed from the chest down. I have gone on to represent Great Britain at three successive Paralympic Games; Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016. Winning bronze medals in London and Rio, I am hoping to be back on the podium at the Tokyo Paralympics later this year.
Following my accident and when shopping for my first wheelchair I met Pete Norfolk, former World No.1 Quad Wheelchair Tennis player. We were talking about me playing badminton prior to my accident and Pete suggested I try wheelchair tennis, even lending me a chair to get started and coming on court with me. I have a lot to be thankful for Pete taking the time to do that. Once I tried it, I was hooked and haven’t looked back, to be honest.
Wheelchair tennis has undoubtedly helped me to cope with my accident and disability. It has made me stronger and fitter and better able to cope on a daily basis, but it has also given me a way of life. Travelling the world, I have had so many incredible experiences and opportunities that I would otherwise not have had. I feel very fortunate to be able to do something that I love every single day. Even during the COVID pandemic, having tennis as a focus and as an outlet was extremely beneficial to me both physically and mentally.
I often get asked this. Ultimately, I love wheelchair tennis, I love the training, I love the competition and I love the challenges it presents. Striving towards Grand Slam opportunities and Paralympic Medals are the pinnacle of our sport, but just the notion of improving yourself and trying to be the best you can keep me motivated every day.
People often think there are more changes to the game, but it is actually the same size court, the same balls, the same net height, the only exception is that those playing in a wheelchair get two bounces, with only the first bounce required to be within the usual perimeters of the game.
It’s not easy as a T4 Paraplegic to compete in wheelchair tennis. When I first started playing the sport, I was told I would be too disabled to compete amongst the top girls. 17 years later, I feel I have proved this wrong, but it is still extremely tough out there. In wheelchair tennis, unlike other Paralympic Sports that have many divisions, there are only 3 categories: men’s and women’s open, and mixed quad divisions. For someone like me with zero core function, it is undoubtedly a tough sport, but I also think this is something that keeps me motivated. The opportunity to prove people wrong, the small wins from making an impact.
I love tennis, I love the fact that you can play with anyone. As a wheelchair user, I can easily play against able bodied friends and family. I think for anyone that is newly injured or even living with a disability and thinking about taking up a sport, there are so many physical, mental, and social benefits. Don’t be scared to give something a try. There are so many sports and charities out there now that provide opportunities for disabled athletes.
If you would like to try tennis, the LTA have lots of opportunities to get involved. Bright Ideas for Tennis are also a charity whose primary goal is to help more people play tennis by creating opportunities, particularly for adults and children with disabilities.
WheelPower is the national charity for wheelchair sport with history dating back over 70 years and the work of their founder Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the father of the Paralympic Movement. From their home, Stoke Mandeville Stadium they provide opportunities for disabled people to enjoy sport and physical activity, whilst benefiting both mentally and physically from leading a healthy and more active lifestyle.
WheelPower is at the heart of wheelchair sport in the United Kingdom and they continue to support thousands of disabled people every year through a calendar of sporting events, online exercise resources and funding to support individuals to reach their sporting potential. Find out more by clicking HERE and get involved!