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To inspire disabled children and world leaders’

Dan Klein --- 30.08.2014 - 11:00

Biography Esther Vergeer - fierce & vulnerable launched at US Open

Today four times Paralympic Champion wheelchair tennis Esther Vergeer has launched her biography ’Fierce & Vulnerable’ during the USTA Membership Appreciation Day, at the US Open in New York. Vergeer, flattered and passionate at the same time: ’It’s wonderful, I’m truly honored that it finally occurred. At such an amazing platform as the US Open. This is the worldwide kick-off I hoped for, the kick-off for my mission to ensure that worldwide, every disabled child will have a chance. A chance to develop through sport.’

Seldom do you find a sport that’s globally dominated by just one person. For ten years Esther Vergeer was unbeatable, she won everything there is to win. She grew to be a role model on court and off. She is spontaneous and insecure, she knows her limits, in her fierceness and vulnerability she involves others in her success and her crusade for the integration of disabled sport. It makes Esther a living legend. Therefore she was honored during the Opening Night Ceremony of the US Open in 2010. That night in Arthur Ashe Stadium featured tributes to tennis greats as James Blake, Martina Navritalova and Esther, celebrating Those Who Dream, Succeed and Inspire, with the theme Overcoming Obstacles.

When she’s eight years old Esther has three internal hemorrhages and ends up on the operating table. It’s all caused by a blood vessel defect. After the third operation she wakes up without sensation in her lower legs and she ends up in a wheelchair. The home front, elementary school, the rehabilitation center and mostly sport constitute the cornerstones for the acceptation of her disability. What’s more, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair basketball open the door to a life filled with new expectations and opportunities.

Esther chooses tennis and turns her dreams into action. Her imposing career starts in her own country, when she wins the unofficial World championships at the age of seventeen. It’s a title she retains thirteen times in a row. The four gold medals she wins during four consecutive Paralympic Games – a world record – mark her magnificent career. Meanwhile Esther serves as a pioneer. She becomes a professional athlete and takes on her social responsibility off court by starting the Esther Vergeer Foundation, Team ParaStars and countless ambassadorships.

As a top athlete pur sang she is the role model of disabled sport, nationally and internationally, and she is the personification of its evolution. In 2002 and 2008 she receives the highest global recognition in sport, the Laureus World Sports Awards. After almost 500 consecutive wins the Dutch sporting icon has hit her last match point. But that does not mean this source of inspiration will fade away. ’Through my Foundation I will strive to ensure that worldwide, every disabled child will have a chance. A chance to develop through sport. One chance is the beginning of the future.’

’What can I do to strive for equality and to dismantle stereotypes? To change people’s perception about the disabled? I can inspire people with my own personal story, my personal dreams and the stories I met, saw and heard of other disabled, in less developed countries or even in big nations. Where the disabled often are seen as less. Tell about how sport enhanced or even saved their lives. For awareness I can talk to world leaders, businessmen, disabled children, chairmen and chairwomen of sports federations, everyone who is willing to listen, about the importance, the relevance and the worldwide urgency of sport for disabled people.’

’I took the opportunities my parents gave me. You support a disabled child by supporting their parents, by supporting the school they go to, by providing sports clubs that are welcoming and suitable for the disabled. I cannot bear it that most disabled children do not receive the same opportunities that I have had. Every child should have a chance at becoming the best they can be, everyone on his or her own level. Able-bodied or disabled, black or white, outgoing or introvert, every child deserves the chance to develop its potential. It’s my mission, but I can only accomplish by working together.’

In Esther Vergeer - fierce & vulnerable she candidly shares her life story interspersed with quotes from people of her inner circle, sporting career and business associates. From her parents to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, from her elementary school teacher to her sponsor, from Johan Cruyff to her opponents in sport.

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Roger Federer:

’She is an amazing athlete, a huge personality and she has achieved one of the most remarkable things in our sport: 470 consecutive wins, unbelievable. I have a lot of admiration for what she’s done. She is a professional in everything that she does and is constantly trying to better herself. I know that not only I but also my colleagues at the top have the utmost respect for Esther and the other wheelchair tennis players. It is wonderful to see Esther care about others after she excelled at her tennis career. I try to take that as an example.’

Novak Djokovic:

’The career of Esther tells me that everything is possible if you truly believe. And that great things can be accomplished if you visualize yourself achieving them and dream big. Esther’s career is one of the most remarkable and outstanding careers in the history of sport. Esther inspires not just people with a disability, but also people without. Her charisma motivates everyone she meets to be positive about themselves and about life in general. Esther is a great example of somebody who never gives up, regardless of her disability. I know she will transfer this fighting spirit and love to her foundation and to the philanthropic world.’