Wheelchair tennis at the Paralympics
Introducing Adam Kellerman, a 21-year-old wheelchair tennis player from Sydney who will represent Australia at the Paralympic Games in London.
Adam, ranked the 29th best player in the world, recently had his spot confirmed for the Games after a year-long qualification process – fulfilling a dream he set for himself when he took up the sport.
“My mum (Ruth) was there when I got the news – I had to go for a walk up and down the street to make sure it was still real,” said Adam.
Adam’s family are no strangers to Maccabi…his father Ray is president of our Northside Maccabi Football Club and the family has a long history with our organisation.
His achievement, having started playing the sport five-and-a-half years ago, is an inspiring story of perseverance and determination.
As a healthy, happy 13-year-old, Adam started feeling pains in his leg. His family’s worst fears were realised when doctors diagnosed him with Ewings Sarcoma, a cancer. It started a tough journey for Adam and his family: a subsequent infection in his leg escalated into another two year battle.
Adam emerged triumphant, but requiring a walking stick to get around.
He writes: “I found it frustrating how everyone else’s life went on, while mine was at a standstill. It chewed me up inside. The best thing that happened out of all this time was in December 2006 I started playing wheelchair tennis. It felt like I had found something that made me normal again playing with other disabled people who all had their own similar, but very different, inspirational stories to tell.”
And another powerful journey had begun.
After working his way through the Paralympic ranks, representing Australia as a junior in 2007-8 and then the men’s team, Adam enjoyed a stint at Arizona University, after which the Masada graduate put everything on hold to obtain his Paralympic dream.
Adam has trained full-time since December and travelled around Australia, to and from the US – over the course of nine different tournament – while also representing the Aussies at the World Team Cup in South Korea.
“In Sydney, I beat the No.6 in the world in the first round in front of my friends and family in one of the most amazing matches of my life,” Adam reflected.
“From there, I got enough points to be in the qualifying range for the first time.
“I’ve had a full tournament schedule since then: I’ve been at home four weeks since January.”
The heavy schedule “got a bit mentally draining towards the end”, but the results speak for themselves.
Adam started his qualification bid ranked No.61 in the world, knowing the cut-off was at the world No.48 spot. He heads to London 29th.
“I’m training more than I ever have in my life. Right now, I’m training 4 hours on court, 1 hour in the gym, Monday through Saturday.”
Adam heads back overseas in July for six tournaments in the lead-up to the Games. Is it hard not to want to jump on the plane and start the Games now?
“Honestly I haven’t thought about it too much, it makes me nervous. I rather focus on day to day activities, as best I can. There’s the training, then there’s the 2-3 hours recovery to make sure you can do it again. I try make sure I do it best I can, so I’m in best shape for tournaments.
“The main thing that’s stuck in my head at the moment is the Opening Ceremony, being in front of thousands of people, wearing the Australian uniform. It’s a moment I’m looking forward to.
“(But I stay focused) by remembering how much hard work I put in to get here and how much more I need to put in so I can reach the top, which is where I really want to be.”
Adam’s story has the power to inspire. Does he want his journey to provide a message to others?
“I’ve made a couple of motivational speeches, where I say: anything is possible and you should go after what you want.
“Sometimes it takes a lot to find what you want. Once you find it, you don’t hesitate.”
And he also wants to sing the praises of his chosen sport and spread the word. It changed his life and he wants people to know about it.
“Tennis is a big sport in Australia and wheelchair tennis is a big part of that – but awareness within Australia is pretty low, not many know about it,” Adam said.
“That’s what I really want to change in my career. I want to spread WC, so people know about it.
“Wheelchair tennis players in Australia are in similar rankings to Bernard Tomic or Samantha Stosur – we are the top players in the world and it’d be great to spread the awareness and encourage people – and sponsors – to support what we’re achieving.”