My Turn: Wheelchair athletes inspire injured tennis player
As I charged forward to pick up a drop shot during a heated tennis match, a “pop” went off like a gunshot in my right heel and dropped me to my knees. My Achilles tendon had snapped.
After surgery to repair the tendon, I was sidelined with an array of casts, crutches and “moon” boots. Finally, after three months, I could walk unassisted. I gradually returned to my normal routine — except I gave up tennis, the game through which I had met my husband, Jim, 20 years earlier.
For the next few years, I turned to gentler sports — yoga, Pilates, biking, hiking, walking around the Rose Bowl. I tried rallying with Jim, but my heart wasn’t in it.
At least I still enjoyed watching tennis. For years, we’ve attended the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and cheered for the world’s best tennis players. This year, we watched a wheelchair tennis exhibition with top-ranked paralympic athletes.
We watched the wheelchair tennis players attack the game with spirit and skill that propelled them forward as fast as legs could. The players sped around the court in their custom-made wheelchairs as they rushed to pick up a short ball or get into position for a return. Between points, they bantered over missed shots or an occasional double fault.
I connected with their joy of hitting the ball, hearing its “thang” and feeling the rhythm of the point. I was in awe as they maneuvered their chairs into position to drive a backhand down the line or deliver a slice shot. They had trained hard to become the best they could and were undeterred by their limitations. I couldn’t remember ever seeing players show such enthusiasm and pure joy.
I guess it was contagious. That day I realized that not only had my Achilles healed but, more important, these athletes had helped my spirit heal. I think I’ll dust off my old racket and hit a few balls.
Carr is a retired public health nurse and a freelance health writer living in Glendale. Her articles have appeared in NurseWeek, the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
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