Wheelchair Tennis champion Gordon Reid already eyeing the 2024 Paralympics

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Gordon Reid of Great Britain takes part in a training session before the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships at Nottingham Tennis Centre on July 20, 2021 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA)
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Gordon Reid of Great Britain takes part in a training session before the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships at Nottingham Tennis Centre on July 20, 2021 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA) /

Gordon Reid was paralyzed from the waist down when he was 12 years old. Today he is a Paralympic gold medalist and Grand Slam champion. 

Gordon Reid was your “normal” kid growing up in small-town Scotland who loved to play sports day and night.

“When I was really young the football side was more what I wanted to be,” Reid told FanSided. “I was a big Glasgow Rangers fan. I used to watch them every week.”

Tennis was prominent as well in the Reid family and Gordon was one of four kids who all played the sport. He started when he was six.

“When I was really young I loved [Goran] Ivanišević. I loved watching him at Wimbledon,” Reid said. “I got my Mom to go out and buy me the shirt he was wearing and I used to wear at my matches. He was one of my first heroes and then when Andy Murray broke on the scene obviously as a fellow Scotsman and a guy who was competing really hard and beating the best guys in the world he pretty much became an idol for me.”

Life changed on a dime for Reid when he was 12 years old. He mysteriously collapsed one day after hanging out with his friends. What was hoped to be a bad cramp was actually a rare spinal condition — transverse myelitis.

Reid was paralyzed from the waist down and spent the next six months in a hospital bed.

“Sometimes when I am talking about it now I gloss over it a little bit because so much has happened since then so many good things have happened,” Reid said. “It was very challenging and a dark time for me a difficult time for my Mom and Dad and my brothers and sisters as well because they were seeing me in that state. It was tough for them as well.”

Eventually, Reid’s parents decided that getting a racquet back in their son’s hands might help his recovery both physically and mentally. There were no immediate dreams of someday ending up on the courts at Wimbledon even when Reid started out by winning some low-level local tournaments. There was just the hope that Reid could start to enjoy his new life.

“When I started to play wheelchair tennis the tennis side of things took over,” Reid explained. “But even then the first few years I was playing wheelchair tennis, I didn’t have the dreams of playing on the world stage. It was more about just getting back involved in the sport enjoying being on the tennis court again just having fun playing tennis. It was more later down the line that the dreams and aspirations on the bigger stage occurred.”

Decision time for Reid for his dreams and aspirations came after he graduated from high school. Should he pursue his wheelchair tennis dream or go the more conventional college route? There were no promises even a successful wheelchair tennis career would support him financially.

“A lot of wheelchair tennis players at that time had part-time or even full-time jobs that they had to work alongside playing,” Reid explained. “I kind of decided that you can go back and get a degree whenever you want, whereas the sport inside your body is only young once. You’ve only got that opportunity when you are younger so, I think I made the right decision.”

Indeed. Reid has now earned Paralympic gold, silver and bronze medals. He is a two-time Grand Slam singles champion and 17-time doubles champion. His most recent Grand Slam title was the 2021 US Open doubles championship with longtime partner Alfie Hewett. Playing his best under the most intense pressure took Reid time to master.

“I played my first Grand Slams in my early teens,” Reid said. “For me, it was quite intimidating quite daunting at that time because these were the players that idolized and watched on TV from a young age all of a sudden I was sharing the locker rooms with them, on the practice court next to them. Obviously, that brought with it some pressure and some nerves. I think over the years I have been playing the slams now I have gotten more used to the scenario personally but I think also wheelchair tennis, in general, is more respected now and held in higher regard and more of those guys are aware of the sport there is more interest from their side and we feel much more of a part of the event now rather than just an afterthought.”

Inclusion. Belonging. Beating the odds. Reids plans to continue to do all that for a while still, with dreams of adding another gold medal to his trophy case.

Gordon Reid isn’t done building his athletic legacy yet

“As long as I am feeling physically good and mentally I am still motivated to keep working and keep improving I don’t have an end date in mind right now,” Reid said. “The next Paralympics games is in Paris in three years so that’s the bare minimum that I am going to aim for.”

And Reid will do his best to inspire and elevate wheelchair tennis along the way.

“I really enjoy being in front of a crowd and feeling that energy and trying to entertain them as well,” Reid said. “The opportunities that we get throughout the year to play in front of the bigger crowds are always my favorites.”

Gordon Reid has been a global ambassador for UNIQLO since 2017. In November Uniqlo partnered with INCLUDEnyc to host Gordon for a special virtual talk event to show young people with disabilities and their allies how they can advocate for their right to be included, everywhere from sports teams to schools and workplaces. 

More. Why We Play. light

Why We Play features stories about the power of sports to bring us together, overcome obstacles, make positive change and reach everyone. Read more here