Wheelchair Tennis in Cuba: Sacrifices and Rewards

Mercedes Gonzalez Amade

Wheelchair tennis team.

HAVANA TIMES — I recently started practicing a sport I knew nothing about before: wheelchair tennis. I was eager to try my hand at it the moment they talked to me about it, particularly because I like challenges. Even though I didn’t even knew it existed till recently, I’ve noticed that, with practice, I am rather good at it.

They’d told me that I wouldn’t be able to stop once I started. Luckily, we have the equipment we need: special wheelchairs, rackets and balls. The trainers, however, are our most important asset: always willing to help and sensitive to our needs, like mothers are with their children, their enviable enthusiasm can cheer up even the most embittered pessimist.

Through the sport, I try to give my all and train my body and mind, proving to myself that nothing is too difficult when you have willpower.

If someone had said to me, a month ago, that I would be making these long, intense trips to train, I would have denied it flatly. I have to go from one end of the city to the other, for I live in Marianao and train in Villa Panamericana. Two or three times a week, I get on my wheelchair and board the notorious PC bus. Luckily, the bus gets there fairly quickly.

When I went to train for the first time, I was introduced to several people with the same disability I have and more severe conditions. Some of them live even farther away – there are some, in fact, who get lifts from as far away as the province of Mayabeque.

This is a new sport for our region and very few people practice it. Some of my friends have been training for longer and it is pleasure to see them play. They have played against people without disabilities at the junior level and won.

For the time being, I am the only woman in the capital practicing the sport, but I know others will soon be joining me.
I don’t care about the sacrifices I need to make, how uncomfortable the trip is or the training hours (always in the afternoon, when it is hotter) – despite all this, I feel very good emotionally, I like what I’m doing and I put my endurance and willpower to the test every day.