Lauren Jones has been spending a lot of time on the tennis court recently. The 23-year-old wheelchair tennis sportswoman is training hard, working towards competing in the 2020 summer Paralympics in Tokyo.
As a teen, Lauren, from Worthing in Sussex, was a talented football player who had been signed to Brighton and Hove Albion with ambitions of becoming a professional. But while climbing a tree with friends, a branch snapped and she fell 25 feet. Lauren awoke in hospital where doctors told her that she had broken her spine and no longer had the use of her legs.
Lauren remembers: “The doctor explained that I was paralysed form the waist down. I turned to my dad and asked if I’d ever play football again. When he said no, it felt like my life was crumbling around me.”
“I didn’t go into tennis with any expectations of becoming professional. But, within two years of starting to play, I was junior world number one.”
Game, Set and Match
For the next six months, Lauren learned to adjust to life using her wheelchair at a specialist centre for spinal cord injuries. During this time, Lauren was determined not to lose her independence and stayed committed to continuing her career in sport. She threw herself into the various wheelchair sports offered by the centre, training daily and soon discovered a talent for tennis, a sport she had previously never considered before.
Lauren explains: “Before my accident, I didn’t know disabled people could play sport, so I didn’t go into tennis with any expectations of becoming professional. But, within two years of starting to play, I was junior world number one.”
Since then, Lauren has gone on to rank 24th in the world for wheelchair tennis and collected accolades a-plenty. She’s no stranger to challenges in her new sporting career though. After missing out on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games due to injury, she most recently had to take time off the court after a diagnosis of severe Crohn’s Disease. None of this has dampened her passion or dedication to the sport though. Lauren is back once again, with her eye on the ball aiming to secure a spot on Team GB for Tokyo 2020.
Lauren explains: “I’m playing the best I’ve ever played, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my career.”
Interested in getting involved? Search for accessible tennis sessions near you on the Tennis Foundation’s website.