Photo: Lu Guang / Chen GongTaneli Tenhunen (FIN)
My life turned around in September 2011, when I found out that my only kidney (I was born with only one) didn’t work anymore and I had to start dialysis treatment three times a week. It meant that my career as a wheelchair tennis player was over.
At first it was a huge shock for me and it took a while to get over. But, as time went on and I started to think about life, I realised that I’m actually still quite lucky that I’m alive. So I started to think about what I should do next and how I could fill the huge space left by not playing tennis anymore.
I contacted my old tennis club and asked if I could work there as coach. They were really excited about my idea and welcomed me to the team. At the beginning I was kind of nervous about how the juniors would respond to a disabled coach, but everything has been working great. Most of our players already knew me because I’m from here and they have seen me playing, so they didn’t question my knowledge of tennis.
I have been working as a tennis coach for about one and a half years now. It has been a great experience for me and I think that I have found my true calling. This is what I want to do for a living.
I haven’t found it difficult to coach from a wheelchair, because winning your players’ trust comes from your personality and attitude. I think that I can be a good example and role model for juniors reaching for their dreams and not letting anything stop them. You just have to keep your mind open to anything new and learn more every day.
My dream is still alive. Someday I hope to get a new kidney and maybe I could get back on the wheelchair tennis tour. I still miss playing competitive tennis every day, but coaching is very good medicine for that. I believe that someday I will be back on tour and get a chance to enjoy the greatest atmosphere in the wheelchair tennis world!