Esther Vergeer : The Palace on wheels

Esther Vergeer is the poster child of everything that symbolizes grit, persistence and will power.


Human Beings are very strong and can do anything they set their mind to. The person to perfectly illustrate such a thing would be one Esther Vergeer.

Vergeer had a rare condition known as Vascular Myelopathy surrounding her spinal cord which resulted in her having two strokes. In 1990 she underwent a surgery which took extreme precision and a period of 9 hours.

This surgery however wrenched away her ability to walk. Any normal person and he/she would have given up trying to have as normal a life as could be conceivable, but not Esther Vergeer. While struggling to come to terms with her new disability she learnt tennis, basketball and volleyball while sitting in a wheel chair.  In fact while in rehabilitation she became so good at Basketball that she was called up to the national wheel chair Basketball side. She was also an integral member of the side that won the European 1997 championships.

The most remarkable part about Esther Vergeer was that Basketball was not even her main game. Her main game was one where she remained the undisputed number one from 1999 to her retirement in February 2013. She ended her career with an air of invincibility, a gargantuan winning streak of 470 matches, which spanned over a decade.  A record breaking 7 Paralympics medals, 21 Grand Slam single crowns and 169 singles titles overall and 159 in the doubles department of the game.  She has nine  Australian Opens to her name, 6 crowns of the much coveted Roland Garros and 6 titles again in the flushing meadows of the US Open. While in doubles she has to her name 7 titles in the Australian Open, quintuplets of French Open, 3 Wimbledon titles and 6 titles of US Open.

The last time that she was vanquished was way back in 30th January 2003 to Daniele De Toro in Sydney, annihilating her next 470 opponents.  The cockamamie nature of her record falls only short of Pakistan’s squash legend Jahangir Khan’s 555 consecutive wins in between 1981-1986.

After her retirement Esther Vergeer found it hard to adjust to life without fame and without gold medals, but now she runs the Esther Vergeer foundation –her organization which spurs on children with physical disabilities to actively participate in sports. She says, “I don’t think a lot of kids go out there and play sports, that needs to be pushed and promoted” and that is what she wants to do. The main quality that children with disabilities lack is confidence and Esther believes that she can help those in need to be more confident and believes that sports is an integral part that will help to usher in the normalcy.

Esther Vergeer is the poster child of everything that symbolizes grit, persistence and will power. Her story encourages us to pick ourselves up and continue our fight. She was a David in a world of Goliaths and overcoming all odds she tamed them all.


Photo by nick step