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70-year-old blind tennis player is getting back in the game

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After the top tennis stars returned to action and excitement to Wimbledon’s courts, a blind woman from Pontprennau is making her own return to the racket sport after shielding for more than a year due to Covid-19.

Before the pandemic began, 70-year-old Maggie Rees had been playing tennis for four years.Classified as severely blind, meaning her sight is minimal to nothing at all, Maggie had been shielding throughout the past year, leaving her unable to attend training for the sport she loves.

With restrictions now lifted to allow indoor sports, Maggie is one of many people across Wales who are getting back in the game with sessions run specifically for people with visual impairments.

Our research suggests that more than half of adults in Wales miss the types of activity they were able to do before the pandemic began. Despite this, more than half of people isolating due to a long-standing condition or illness felt worried about leaving the house after the pandemic, with 60 percent of all adults feeling concerned about exercising close to others.

Maggie Rees, a 70 year old tennis player from Pontprennau, smiling at the camera from a bench at the tennis courts.
Maggie Rees

 

To assist with ensuring people feel supported and motivated to return to exercise, we launched our #BackintheGame campaign with the aim of inspiring people to fall in love with sport and exercise again this summer. 

The Cardiff-based sessions that Maggie attends are part of the Open Court Programme, funded by the Lawn Tennis Association and Tennis Wales, and are aimed at promoting and delivering opportunities for disabled people to get involved in the racket sport.

Discussing the effects of shielding during the pandemic, Maggie said: “My interest in playing tennis diminished during lockdown and when tennis returned, I had negative thoughts about returning to play. I hadn’t been in contact with any other people and hadn’t been away from home other than to visit immediate family locally. I was apprehensive and felt anxious but went along to the first session back and kept my distance because it was necessary. 

Maggie Rees, a 70 year old tennis player from Pontprennau, smiling at the camera from the tennis courts.
Maggie Rees

 

“Despite this, I’ve continued to attend each week and I’m pleased to see my old friends again. My anxieties have now gone and my spirits are high. Sport is not just an activity, the people we work out with and the people we play with are important factors which contribute towards enjoying the whole experience.”

A recent Public Health Wales report demonstrates that people across Wales are still reporting feelings of isolation and loneliness but that increasing physical activity with a social element is effective in improving mental health outcomes.

Discussing the benefits of returning to sport, Sarah Powell, CEO of Sport Wales, said: “At Sport Wales, we’re encouraging people across Wales to get back into the game in their own way, whether that’s being part of a team again, getting out and re-connecting with the local community, achieving that post-exercise feeling or just having fun. With Wimbledon returning this week for the first time in two years, Maggie’s story is an inspirational example of the positive effects that exercising has on both physical and mental wellbeing.”

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