Tokyo Paralympics: Gold tennis hopeful wants to show son she’s ‘not just mum’

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Yui Kamiji of Japan and Jordanne Whiley of Great Britain and her son celebrate with the trophy  (Getty Images)
Yui Kamiji of Japan and Jordanne Whiley of Great Britain and her son celebrate with the trophy (Getty Images)

Wheelchair tennis star Jordanne Whiley believes it’s “so important” to show her young son she is more than “just mum” as she bids for gold at the Tokyo Paralympics.

The athlete, who at 14 became Britain’s youngest national women’s wheelchair champion, juggles elite sport and motherhood after welcoming Jackson in early 2018. She is also a mortgage adviser after training herself during the pandemic.

The athlete won bronze with doubles partner Lucy Shuker at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Whiley, 29, who was awarded an MBE in 2015, told the Standard it was often “tough” juggling motherhood with elite sport — but suggested she was determined to “make it work” and go for gold at the Tokyo Games, which begin next week after a year-long delay due to the pandemic.

She said: “It is something that is really important to me to show him that she is not just ‘mum’.

“Also, for other female athletes, it is becoming more out there now — that if you want to be a mum and you are an elite athlete it is not necessarily the end of your career. So, for me to be able to do what I do and hopefully show other women that it is possible with the right support network around you.”

Whiley, who is based in Halesowen in the West Midlands, added: “It is tough, because being a mum and being an athlete are two of the most demanding jobs. But I really just don’t have that gold medal. I wanted two things at once, and that is what I did. I made it work.”

The five-time Wimbledon women’s doubles champion hailed her “incredible” mother who has been looking after Jackson while she trained.

“He is at pre-school so is loving life. He has settled in nicely so that makes life easier for me,” she said. “It is all about balance. I have a good work — well two types of work — and mum balance. A lot of people think it is a lot, but I just make it work because I love what I do.”

Whiley has brittle bone disease, or osteogenesis imperfecta, as does her father Keith, who won a bronze medal in the men’s 100 metres at the 1984 New York Paralympics.

She said of her h​opes for Tokyo: “I am looking to be on the podium for both singles and doubles. For singles I would love to get gold, that is my ultimate goal. This is my fourth Games and it is the only thing I don’t have in my medal cabinet.”

The Tokyo Paralympics officially begin with the opening ceremony on Tuesday. They are the 16th Summer Paralympic Games and the second to be hosted by the Japanese capital.

The first in 1964 had just 378 athletes from 21 countries competing in nine sports. This time there will be 4,350 athletes from 206 nations taking part in 22 sports and 539 events.

The competition will be set over nine days, with two new sports added to the schedule — badminton and taekwondo.

ParalympicsGB will have 228 athletes competing in 19 of the 22 sports. The opening ceremony will be broadcast from 11.50am on Channel 4.

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