Esther Vergeer: Fierce and Vulnerable

I cry when I see that picture of me as a little girl. Helpless and alone after the surgery, she must lie on her stomach for a week. No one told mom or dad she might need a wheelchair.

Alone in the bathroom after another gold medal, I must produce for the mandatory doping test. I need a catheter to pee for the rest of my life. That’s worse than losing your legs.

Year after year without losing. An increasing pressure of being expected to win. New sponsors, too, who only know me as a legend who never loses. I double-fault, miss shots. Family in the stands. Dutch television, too. Why do I feel shame?

Injury worries performance pressures opponents improving faster faster this new state of the art chair: lighter and built so that the kinetic chain of my body loses as little energy as possible as I sit in its tub and whale away. Gold medal time. Best thing is to hit high spinners to her. Make it hard to slice. Doesn’t look impressive to all those watching, but it’s what I should do to win. Why worry about how it all looks. Battle of my life.

I played with dolls, fought with my brother. My father taught me to ride a bike. Taught me taught me taught me even after we both knew I would never be able to ride a bike.

Note: All the info and some of the language in this piece was taken from Vergeer’s autobiography: Esther Vergeer: Fierce and Vulnerable.

Check out the Esther Vergeer Foundation for info on the great work they do to provide sports activities for those with special needs.

About Esther Vergeer (from Wikipedia): Esther Mary Vergeer (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɛstər vərˈɣeːr]; born 18 July 1981) is a Dutch former professional wheelchair tennis player. Vergeer won 48 major titles (21 in singles and 27 in doubles), 23 year-end championships (14 consecutive in singles and nine in doubles), and seven Paralympic gold medals (four in singles and three in doubles). She was the world No. 1 in women’s wheelchair singles from 1999 to her retirement in February 2013.[1] Vergeer went undefeated in singles for ten straight years, ending her career on a winning streak of 470 matches.[2] She has often been named the most dominant player in professional sports.[3][4]

Photo of Esther Vergeer is from Esther Vergeer’s own files to be used on Wikimedia.

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