By: Elena Scuro Photo Credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve
Her number of records are astounding, yet she’s not a household name. Currently on a 444-match winning streak, Esther Vergeer is one of the greatest athletes in the world and not just in my opinion - Roger Federer thinks so too. Sadly, many people don’t know a lot about Vergeer or have never even heard of her. Hopefully the following will change that.
1. She’s Good At Other Sports Too: Vergeer developed paraplegia when she was 8 years old due to an otherwise successful surgery. During rehabilitation, she learned to play volleyball, basketball and tennis in a wheelchair. After a few years at the club level, Vergeer was invited to join the Dutch national wheelchair basketball team and played with them when they won the European championship in 1997.
2. Her First Job: Vergeer once worked as an intern at the National Olympic Committee in the Netherlands.
3. She Posed Nude: In October 2010, Vergeer posed nude on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue. "When they first asked me to appear naked in the magazine, I wasn't sure about accepting,”she told CNN. “I wasn't that confident about my body, but they assured me I would have the final say on what photos were published and the photographer made me feel at ease. I just think it's really cool that they wanted to put a disabled athlete on their front cover, and I am very happy with the photos.”
4.She’s Well-Respected: Vergeer receives the utmost respect from fellow players, including Roger Federer, who told CNN that he believes Vergeer's achievements deserve the maximum recognition. "I think what Esther has accomplished is absolutely amazing. She hasn't lost a match since 2003 and has gone on an incredible streak, which is impossible to imagine me being able to do," he said. "Obviously there is also an argument that she is one of the greatest athletes in the world at the moment."
5. The Moment She Almost Lost: At the 2010 US Open, Vergeer spoke about the time she had a match point against her (during the 2008 Paralympic Games), the first time since her win streak began. She said “yes, I was nervous. Even though you only have 20 seconds in that time, I was thinking a lot of things about, like, how my parents would react or how I would react or the girl that I was playing would react or the media or would I start
crying or would I have a feeling of relief?”
6. Dinner Date: In 2009, Vergeertold the BBC that her ideal dinner guest would be President Barack Obama. “I think he is a very charismatic guy, but I would really like to know the reason why, for God's sake, he would want to become President of America,” she said. “I would also like to have dinner with Jake Gyllenhaal because he is cute.”
7. What Makes Her Nervous: Despite the fact that people think Vergeer is very confident, she says “new people or situations make me nervous.”
8. If She Wasn’t Playing Tennis: Vergeer studied management, economics and law, so if she wasn’t playing tennis, she would “be doing something probably in an office sitting behind a desk.” She lists her interests as management and marketing.
9. Cookie Monster: Vergeer has confessed her love of cookies and said she could eat packets of them to the point where most people would get sick.
10. Her Foundation: Vergeer loves motivating people, one of the reasons she started The Esther Vergeer Foundation. Her goal is to help young people with disabilities and she focuses on integrating and empowering the children with sports.