‘Wheelchair tennis saved my life’: Grimsby tennis star’s sporting journey after shock diagnosis

Gillian Mauro looks back on her journey from rising tennis player to wheelchair tennis starGillian Mauro looks back on her journey from rising tennis player to wheelchair tennis star

Gillian Mauro was always competitive, but when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010, the rising tennis star faced her toughest challenge yet.

Before 2012, Grimsby-born Mauro played tennis competitively and described it as one of her biggest passions.

However, two years after the shocking diagnosis, her condition had deteriorated to the point that she could barely move to get the ball between points, and she had to make the devastating decision to stop playing.

“I was just in tears,” she said. “That’s when I faced my deepest depression.”

What made it especially hard was not just that Mauro was dealing with the loss of her favorite sport, but there were also the symptoms that came with the condition.

She experienced bad nerve pain from her torso down to her toes, and fatigue at levels she finds difficult to communicate to others.

The double blow left her depressed. “Going from being so active… was really depressing,” she said.

However, in 2017 Mauro decided that since she could no longer play able-bodied tennis, but needed to be on the court, she would pick up wheelchair tennis.

She attended a have-a-go session hosted by the Ontario Para Network (ONPARA). She knew it was going to be difficult to make the switch and learn a new skill set, but she was determined to try.

One of the biggest hurdles getting into the sport, though, was to get the specific wheelchair that was required, which costs thousands of dollars. Luckily, her friends started a fundraiser and quickly raised the money.

The first event she attended was, Mauro admits, at a very high level, but it just added to her determination to get into the sport.

“This can be an actual sport for me and not just a hobby,” she said.

And embracing the sport changed Mauro’s life. Not only just for the competitive element that she craved, but the impact it had on her day-to-day life.

“(It) made dealing with life better both physically and emotionally,” Mauro said. “From an emotional standpoint it was absolutely critical.”

And physically, it helped with her everyday activities because sport helps maintain fitness.

It also helped her reframe her diagnosis and her outlook on life. “Wheelchair tennis was what made me realize what I could do, not what I couldn’t do.”

“Wheelchair tennis saved my life,” Mauro said.

However, the pandemic threw another obstacle in her path. Because of her health concerns, she made the tough decision not to get the vaccine, meaning she couldn’t train or compete.

Mauro was eventually able to get back into it this summer and competed in the Janco Steel Wheelchair Tennis Classic, an international tennis tournament at Grimsby Tennis Club. And recently she was one of the torchbearers as part of the Grimsby torch relay ahead of the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.

And, in 2020, Mauro published her book “The Girl In The Wheelchair: It’s Not That Bad” through Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08GZQQQ86?r.

Looking back, Mauro had no idea what her wheelchair tennis journey would be when she started out. And although there may be more challenges along the way, she’s shown she’s more than capable of rising to them.


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