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Jordanne Whiley on inspiring a generation

For anyone looking for a positive role model, they need look no further than Jordanne Whiley. Not only is she putting disability sport on the map, but she’s passionate about encouraging others to believe that you don’t need to be ‘perfect’ to achieve your dreams. Here, Jordanne talks to Fish Insurance about inspiring a generation as she prepares for Rio 2016

As someone whose rise to prominence has been so spectacular, it seems natural that Jordanne will have been inspired by somebody along with way. But Jordanne doesn’t necessarily play by the rules.

“I didn’t really have a role model growing up,” she admits. “Not a celebrity one anyway. I don’t really like this culture of looking up to people in magazines because it isn’t real. You get young people seeing all these photoshopped images and wanting to look like that, and they can’t because even the people in the magazines don’t look like that, not really.

“I don’t want to be like someone else but I do always try to be a better version of myself, I think that’s important.”

It’s good advice. Career-wise, Jordanne says her dad, Keith, is her biggest inspiration. Like Jordanne, Keith has brittle bone syndrome. He won a bronze medal for track in the 1984 Paralympics before taking up tennis and competing in different tournaments. Jordanne, too, won a bronze medal in London 2012, but has her sights set on taking home gold at Rio.

“My dad was the one who got me into tennis in the first place,” Jordanne explains. I was watching him play one day and I just started copying him. I was only three at the time. He signed me up to a tennis centre and became my coach and that’s how it all began. To win a gold medal is my ultimate goal.”

Aged five, Jordanne was scouted by the Tennis Foundation. By 11, she was asked to join its performance programme, and by 12 she competed in her first World Cup. It’s this, and her monumental achievements since, which has led to her becoming somewhat of a role model herself.

“I don’t really see myself as a role model, but it’s nice,” Jordanne admits. “Especially if it puts the spotlight on wheelchair tennis, because it really needs the exposure.

“I’d rather people look up to me than some of the other celebrities out there because I’m a real person, and I’m not perfect. If I can show people that success comes in all shapes and sizes and you don’t have to look a certain way, then that’s a good thing.”

It’s one of the things that’s so refreshing about Jordanne. Quite rightly, she makes no excuses for who she is – even in the company of royalty.

“I was invited to Buckingham Palace and I was quite young at the time so I didn’t know much about the Royal Family,” she tells us. “I love my food and there were all these waiters handing out entrees. They had some lemon tarts that were really delicious but they’d run out, so I asked one of the waiters if there were any more. Only the ‘waiter’ turned out to be Prince Edward!

“I was so embarrassed but he was lovely – and he even went to get me a lemon tart!”

With three Wimbledon titles, nine grand slams and an MBE already to her name, Jordanne is captivating the nation. Her success will undoubtedly help shift attitudes and perceptions towards disability and create a real, positive role model for all.

Fish Insurance is a proud sponsor of Jordanne Whiley and we wish her all the very best for Rio 2016. 

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