Laureus Olympians: Esther Vergeer says ‘I can win a fourth Gold Medal in London’

AMSTERDAM - April 25, 2012
Esther Vergeer, the most dominant athlete in any sport, says she is confident she can win a fourth gold medal in the London Paralympic Games later this year.

Speaking in an interview with in Amsterdam, where she lives and trains, Vergeer, who is unbeaten in 452 singles wheelchair tennis matches going back to January 2003, said: “It’s going to be stressful, I am sure. But at the same time, I feel very confident and very powerful. I have this new chair that I developed, which I feel very confident in.  I trained very hard this winter on specific things. So I am very confident that I am able to win that gold medal.”

Vergeer, who is a two-time winner of the Laureus Disability Award, says: “Sometimes this streak gives me a lot of confidence and sometimes a lot of pressure that everybody expects me to win. Sometimes I get very insecure about the fact that the day that I’m going to lose is going to come and I wonder who is going to beat me. But on the other side, there’s also the fact that they need the mental ability to become ‘the one that is going to beat Esther’ - so there are different sides to the streak.”

Vergeer says a Paralympic Games has a whole different atmosphere to individual tournaments.  “You know you are going to be part of the whole national Dutch team and going to the Olympic village. In Beijing [2008] I was the flag-bearer, I could take the flag into the stadium. You know in the stadiums you see the spectators all in orange and it has a different feel.”

If she wins her fourth singles Paralympic gold medal in London – she has also won two gold medals in doubles – she will be a strong contender to win a third Laureus Disability Award?

She says: “I’ve won the Laureus Award twice, in 2002 and 2008, and I think this is one of the most special awards there is, because it’s chosen by former top athletes.  They know what it takes and they know what it is like to be an athlete. I’ve won it twice, it’s a dream to maybe even be nominated again, or maybe to even win for a third time. I can only hope that good results, maybe hopefully in the Paralympic Games, will put me up for another nomination.”

The only other woman to have won three Laureus Awards is tennis player Serena Williams. And Esther says: “If I can compete with Serena that would be awesome, because there is no other way I can compete with her, so that would be funny.”

In the interview, Esther Vergeer also talks about the shock of becoming paraplegic after a surgery accident. She says: “I was eight when it all happened. Everything that I did was not normal any more.  I could not get dressed the normal way I was used to, I could not play soccer the way I was used to, I could not go out for sleepovers with friends the way I used to. I had to relearn all those things. I think because of sport, I relearned very quickly and I realised what I could and what I could not do and I wasn’t worried about the things that I could not do any more and I was only focused on the things that I could do and I think that has saved my life.”

One of her backroom team is her physical trainer Marijn Zall, who has now become her boyfriend. She says: “I met him on the tennis court a couple of years ago and we grew together and now we’re girlfriend and boyfriend. We have a sharp line between the home situation and the work situation. If my physical trainer is training me, then he’s the boss. And then you know, in the home situation it’s maybe different and I’m the boss or maybe he’s the boss - sometimes.”
Read the full transcript here.

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