Legacy is a topic often talked about in the context of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Thirty six years on from the birth of wheelchair tennis in USA, it is part of the amazing legacy of Brad Parks that the sport is one of the most popular spectator sports in the Paralympic Games programme. Twenty years ago, when wheelchair tennis made its debut as a full medal sport at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, Brad Parks won gold in the men’s doubles, playing alongside Randy Snow. Both have now been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame since 2010.
Now, at London 2012, there’s another element to Brad’s legacy, as his twin daughters, Sarah and Maiah Parks, are among the team of Games Makers at Eton Manor. Here, Sarah charts their journey to London 2012.
"I was born in 1990, so I was about two years old when dad won his Gold medal in Barcelona, so unfortunately I do not have any recollections. I wish I could remember! It wasn't until dad began receiving recognition at awards ceremonies that I then recognised how important he had been to the sport and all of the outstanding accomplishments he has achieved in his life. Also, I began to understand how life can sometimes be difficult for him and how humble and compassionate he is about wheelchair tennis and about helping others.
My twin sister Maiah and I have been lucky enough to be involved with wheelchair tennis for several years now. Through our high school to our college years, we attended the USTA Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp that was in Mission Viejo once a week. We were able to get to know all of the players and the coaches and to get a feel for how much my dad has impacted the sport and also how much the sport has expanded over the years. I cannot tell you in enough words how much compassion and patience the coaches have. They are amazing individuals that I wish I could see more often.
We were also able to fly across to Nottingham for the 2009 World Team Cup, where we were able to really understand wheelchair tennis and befriend some of the players and coaches. To this day, we still keep in touch with them and see them couple times a year! I have also attended a USTA Conference in La Jolla and, of course, we were there when my father was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010.
The weekend of the ITHF Induction was so much fun and meeting people from all over the tennis world was a once in a lifetime opportunity. My favourite part of the weekend was watching Bob Shafer speak about my father in his introduction, and then watching my father give his own account about wheelchair tennis. In his speech, he spoke about the happiness the sport has brought him and the struggles that he has encountered. I have never been more proud in my life to be his daughter.
I was studying abroad in the fall of 2010 in Florence, Italy. My friend and I decided to travel to London for the weekend and during that time I met up with Mark Bullock from the ITF. During lunch, Mark suggested we apply to become Games Makers. I understood that this was a once in a lifetime experience.
We applied in the spring of 2011. Two years later, after an interview and multiple pages of paperwork, we were accepted as Games Makers and, since we were graduating from college right before the Games, we decided that we could not turn it down! We were not able to make some of the training sessions due to us living in California, but we did participate in the training that was available when we arrived here in London.
Working at Wimbledon was absolutely breathless. It was incredible to be working with other volunteers from all over the world, who were all very kind. I could not believe the experience that we had and the hardworking people that we were surrounded by. Seeing top athletes walk by, literally within one inch of us, was out of this world!
During the Olympics we had people asking us about wheelchair tennis, especially the other volunteers. Many of them were curious to know how the game was played and where it was being held for the Paralympics. It’s exciting that many of the other volunteers who were working with us at Wimbledon are also now working with us at the Paralympic Games.
During the Olympics I was able to attend the Men's Water Polo and also the Gold Medal Match of the Women's soccer. It was so much fun and an experience I will never forget! The atmosphere in London is absolutely incredible. The people here are very helpful and kind! The city is breathtaking and is lit up with London 2012 paraphernalia all over the city, including the Olympic rings over the Tower Bridge (now replaced by the Paralympic Agitos symbol) and King’s Cross station, in the Tube and on street lights.
At the Paralympics I am most looking forward to seeing the hard work that all the athletes put in pay off. I love seeing how people rise above the struggle and achieve something amazing, such as participating in the Paralympic Games. The stories are incredibly inspiring and make me want to become a better person. Everyone is incredibly humble, hardworking, inspiring, compassionate and understanding."