My journey from Spinal Cord Injury to Paralympics
In 1986, at the age of 16, I had just left school having completed my O levels and was looking towards a successful Rugby League Career. However, in the summer of 1986, my life would change forever. I was involved in an accident that severed my spinal cord, rendering me tetraplegic. When I left the hospital, I won gold in table tennis at the 1987 National Wheelchair Games, and it was here where I was first introduced to the sport of Wheelchair Rugby.
I was Captain of GB’s Wheelchair Rugby squad by 1992 and whilst competing at the International Wheelchair Games at Stoke Mandeville, I was asked to watch a demonstration from a group of American wheelchair tennis players. A year later, I started entering competitions in the sport and won 7 national titles.
After a huge success nationally, I received sponsorship’s which enabled me to go to the Japan Open where all the top players were competing and it was here that I beat the then world number one in the final. As a result, I received funding to enter tournaments worldwide and went on to win tournaments in Australia (including winning the Australian Open twice), all over America, Japan and all over Europe.
In 1998, I was selected to represent Great Britain at the World Team Cup (the Davis cup of Wheelchair tennis), unfortunately losing out to USA in the final. However, in 2002, the team I was a member of became the first Great British team ever to win the World Team Cup, beating Japan in the final and defending the title again, after beating USA in the final. I became the first British player ever, at any level, to be World Number One in Singles and the first British player ever to be World Number One in Doubles.
I competed at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, where he went on to win a silver medal in Doubles Wheelchair Tennis. After Athens, I decided to retire from competing and took my LTA Tennis coaching qualification and became the first tetraplegic to qualify as a tennis coach. I became a P.E. teacher in a school for children with complex physical and medical needs and was also the Disability Sport Development Officer for Halton.
Cyclone sponsored me from the very beginning throughout my tennis career and I am now a full time Mobility Advisor at the company, giving advice to disabled people all over the North of the UK.