Newsletter no. 25 August 2004



French Open 2004 [Caption with photograph: Sonja is aiming at gold!] This special Paralympics edition is intended to give background information about all the things that concern the Paralympics. During this great event Sonja’s achievements will be continually kept up to date at her website


The concept of the Paralympic Games is born from the vision of an English neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttman of the Stoke-Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain.

The first 'Stoke-Mandeville Games' were held on July 28 1948. In these first games 16 British World War II veterans competed for victory. It was thanks to the Dutch that in 1952 the first international 'Stoke-Mandeville Games' were held. A team of wheelchair athletes of the military rehabilitation centre in Doorn travelled to England to compete against the British veterans. In 1960 Paralympic Games were held in Rome, for the first time in the same city and parallel to the Olympic Games, hence the term Paralympics. The last decennia the professionalization of the Paralympic Games have gained momentum and today strives to match its Olympic big brother.

Wheelchair tennis is a full medal sports since the Paralympics of Barcelona in 1992 and grew to be one of the most exciting sports. The dominance of the Dutch women was secured at the Sydney Paralympic Games in 2000. A sell-out crowd watched Esther Vergeer winning the gold, Sharon Walraven the silver and Maaike Smit adding a bronze medal to her Atlanta gold.

Facts and figures

A little over two weeks after the closure of the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games will be held in Athens from September 17 till September 28 at the same venues. More than 4,000 athletes from 130 different countries will participate in the world’s second largest sports event ?only the Olympic Games are bigger. They will compete in 19 different sports of which 15 are shared with the Olympic Games. Together with about 2,000 team officials and almost 1,000 referees the Paralympic group is bound to be the biggest ever. In addition to the athletes and their team officials some 3,000 journalists, 1,000 technical officials and 15,000 volunteers will participate.

The costs of the Paralympic Games will amount to some 130 million dollars.

The Dutch team, which participates under auspices of the Dutch Union for Disabled Sports (NEBAS) and the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC*NSF) counts 97 athletes, for which severe qualification requirements have been used: an athlete has to belong to the six best of the world.


All Dutch Paralympic athletes will get a complete outfit, from tank top till wallet, which will be similar to a great extent to that of the Olympic team. It contains amongst others an orange suitcase and clothing which is designed by Piet Zoomers company, including fashionable white suits with orange details. The track-suits and casual clothing of Asics has the retro-trend as a guiding principle: sharp cut, simple pattern.


The athletes will live in the newly built Olympic village, close to the centre of Athens, at the foot of the mountain Parnitha. Here 336 blocks of apartments are situated with a total of 2,292 apartments with two persons sharing the rooms. Furthermore it includes trainings facilities, a polyclinic, domestic services, entertainment rooms and religious centres. After the Games the apartments and all other facilities will be put at the disposal of the people of Athens.

The Olympic Tennis Centre is situated in Maroussi, a northern suburb of Athens, and is part of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA). The Tennis Centre consists of the main court (8,600 seats), two semi-final courts (4,300 seats) and 13 other courts with 200 seats each. The tennis centre already existed but a completely new main court has been built, while the other courts have been renovated.

Tennis tournament

For the tennis tournament 64 men, 32 women and 16 quads (also handicaps on arms/hands) have qualified, representing 24 countries. The Netherlands will be represented by Esther Vergeer, Sonja Peters, Sharon Walraven en Maaike Smit. All four will play in the women’s singles, while coach Aad Zwaan has chosen for the combinations of Esther Vergeer/Maaike Smit en Sonja Peters/Sharon for the doubles.

With a firm third spot on the world ranking list in both categories, Sonja will be amongst the seeded players at the draw on September 18.


At the Australian Open early this year, Sonja performed very well. Under extremely hot weather conditions she defeated home favourite and world's number two Daniela di Toro in a thrilling three sets match: 7-6(10), 3-6, 6-0. This earned her a place in the finals which she lost to Esther Vergeer. But Sonja certainly has shown that she can perform very well under the extreme conditions that can also occur in Athens. Also her win at the French open and a number of other good results show that Sonja is ready for it.

As a last preparation for Athens the whole Dutch team participates in the Inail Citta di Livorno in Italy from September 9 till 15. This is followed by a training camp at Malta from September 9 till 15, after which the team directly travels on to Athens.


31.08 - 05.09 Inail Citta di Livorno, Italië. CS1 tournament 09.09 - 15.09 Training camp Malta September 17 Opening ceremony Paralympic Games The schedule for the women’s singles is as follows: September 18 Draw September 24 Semi-finals September 25 Bronze medal September 26 Gold/silver medal September 28 Closing ceremony Paralympic Games September 29 Arrival from Athens. KL 1576, arrival time Schiphol 18.05 h September 30 Homage of Paralympic medal winners by the Queen in The Hague
Coverage by the media

Because of the presence of 3,000 media officials the attention of the media will be bigger than ever, both in newspapers as on TV. More than 300 hours will be broadcasted live, the biggest TV coverage in the history of the Paralympic Games.

In The Netherlands BNN will broadcast a daily program of half an hour, titled “With one leg in the finals”. A portrait of Sonja has already been recorded, so she will certainly appear on TV. The Dutch Sports program will also pay attention to the sports achievements. In addition two documentaries about the Paralympics are planned by TROS and EO.

Interesting websites

Information can be found on a number of websites, both in general as well as specific for wheelchair tennis. First of all of course Sonja’s own website, which will be kept up to date during the Paralympics by webmaster Paul Kuijken. More information on tennis can also be found on and General, broad information is available on the website of the Dutch Olympic Committee and

Sonja’s ambition

For Sonja Sydney was a big disappointment from a sports point of view due to the loss in her first match. But after she overcame that disappointment the feeling remained of a very special experience. In Athens Sonja wants to put things straight. Both in the singles as well as the doubles (together with Sharon Walraven) she certainly is one of the medal candidates.

Her ambition is to return home with gold. In the past she has shown that she can do it, but Sonja is also aware that it is no easy task, since competition has grown stronger.

Enormous support

Sonja and the Foundation Friends of Wheelchair Tennis Player Sonja thank all sponsors, donors and fans enormously for their great and enthousiastic support over the past years. That support was instrumental in achieving this important milestone.

To Sonja it will no doubt be an additional stimulus when you wish her good luck by means of an entry in the guest book at the website or through a letter or postcard to her home address: Wolvendijk 161, 5641 AR Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

Sonja’s preview

“The Paralympics will be an exciting event with a strong players field. I am going to Athens well prepared and I will do everything within my power to perform as good as I possibly can. It is certain that I am going to enjoy it and what could be a better contribution to that than a medal?

I know that very many people stand behind me and always have supported me, and that is why I hope that we can experience these Paralympics together in a special way”