NEWSLETTER NO. 14, OCTOBER 2000
SPECIAL PARALYMPICS EDITION
SONJA PETERS IN SYDNEY!!!!!!
Sonja's win at the British Open a good omen?
The aim of this special Paralympics edition is to give some background information on what goes on at the Paralympics and what it's all about. During this fantastic event Sonja's achievements will be kept up-to-date on her website.
The concept of the Paralympics originates from the vision of a British neurosurgeon, Sir Ludwig Guttman of the Stoke-Mandeville Hospital in Britain. The first Stoke-Mandeville Games were held on 28 July 1948. In the first Games 16 British war veterans competed. However, the Dutch were the people that turned the Stoke-Mandeville Games into an international event. That was in 1952, when a team of wheelchair athletes from the military rehabilitation centre in Doorn travelled to Britain to compete against British veterans. In 1960 the Paralympic Games were held in Rome. This was the first time they were held in the same city as the Olympic Games, hence the name 'Paralympics'. In recent decades the professionalisation of the Paralympics has gained momentum and is in no way inferior to its Olympian big brother.
Since the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona, wheelchair tennis has been a full medal- sport; in the next four years it developed explosively to become one of the most exciting sports at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. A sell-out crowd watched the Dutchman Ricky Molier win the men's singles gold medal, while compatriot Maaike Smit did the same in the women's tournament.
Facts and figures
Just over two weeks after the Olympic Games the Paralympic will be held in Sydney, at the same venue, from 18 to 29 October. Some 4,000 athletes from 125 countries will be participating in the Games, which is the world's second biggest sporting event in 2000. They will compete in 18 different sports; 14 of which are common to the Olympic Programme. The participants will be accompanied by 2,000 officials, 1,000 technical officials, 1,300 media representatives and 10,000 volunteers! The organisers expect something like 650,000 spectators, good for a combined attendance figure of about one million.
The Dutch contingent, delegated by the Dutch Olympic Committee NOC*NSF and the Dutch organisation for disabled sports (NEBAS), consists of 104 athletes, all meeting stringent qualification criteria: every athlete is one of the top six in the world!
All Dutch athletes competing in the Paralympics will be dressed largely the same as the members of the Dutch Olympic team. They will all be flying the flag with a 'shocking orange' suitcase and designer clothing by Piet Zoomers, including the now familiar jacket with tulips and 'Netherlands' on the back. A sports outfit (clothing, shoes, towel and bags) is also included, provided by Asics and featuring a fashionable mix of red, white, blue and orange colours.
The athletes will be housed in the Olympic village, which has 1500 rooms suitable for wheelchair users. Each room is shared by two persons. Extensive facilities are available in the Olympic Village, such as TV/video and reading rooms, a cinema, laundrette, gymnasium, medical assistance and just about everything you would expect to find in a village. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day!
The New South Wales tennis centre is built on an old horse stud and racecourse. It was designed jointly by Australian tennis-pro John Newcombe and the UK creators of Wimbledon's No. 1 court. It features a 10,000-seat circular centre court with 70% of the seats in the shade; not a luxury in Australia! - plus two demo courts, seven match courts and six practice courts. All court surfaces are made of Rebound Ace, the same material used at the Australian Open. The official balls are Dunlop Slazenger 'Championship'.
For the tennis tournament 48 men and 24 women from 24 countries have qualified. Esther Vergeer, Sonja Peters, Maaike Smit and Sharon Walraven will represent the Netherlands in the women's tournament. All four will play the women's singles. For the doubles, coach Aad Zwaan has selected Esther Vergeer and Maaike Smit. Each country can only enter one doubles team. In the women's group there is a 32-person draw, including 8 byes, so as a seeded player (world's No. 3) Sonja does not have to play in the first round.
For its final preparations for Sydney, the Dutch team participated in the US Open, which was held from 23 September to 1 October 1. All the world's top players were present at this Super Series tournament. Unfortunately Sonja came down with the flu, so she lost prematurely in the quarter-finals. But better to be ill now than in Sydney!
Earlier Sonja won the British Open, another Super Series tournament, in which she defeated the world's number one Daniela di Toro in the semi-finals and world number two Esther Vergeer in the finals. So Sonja has shown that she can beat them all. Sonja also moved to a solid third spot on the world-ranking list at the cost of compatriot Maaike Smit. To coin a phrase, Sonja is ready for it!
October 3: official send-off by the city of Eindhoven
October 10: departure from Schiphol Airport
October 18: opening ceremony in Sydney
The schedule for the women's singles is as follows:
October 19: draw
October 20: first round (Sonja has a bye)
October 21/22: second round
October 23/24: quarter-finals
October 25: semi-finals
October 26: bronze medal playoff
October 27: gold/silver medal match
October 29: closing ceremony
October 30: departure from Sydney
October 31 at 06.30 h arrival at Schiphol Airport immediately followed by a private reception at the RAI building
First, of course, Sonja's own website www.sonjapeters.nl which will be kept up-to-date during the Paralympics by Webmaster Martijn van Mierlo. Since November 1998 this site has had over 3,700 hits. Further information can also be found at www.paralympics.nl and at www.paralympictennis.com, which includes a biography of Sonja. More general information is available on www.olympics.com after clicking on Paralympics.
Sonja and the Foundation 'Friends of Wheelchair Tennis Player Sonja' wish to thank all the sponsors, donors and fans for the tremendously enthusiastic support over the past years. This support has been indispensable for reaching this new milestone.