05/01/12 - The push for gold starts here

Tennis Foundation Lead Coach Stuart Wilkinson tells us about festive warm weather training with Paralympic champion Peter Norfolk.

The festive period has just come and gone in a blur for me this year. I flew out of a cold London Heathrow on the 27th December and a day later I was half way around the world in the sunshine. It wasn’t a family holiday, but a crucial warm weather training camp in Dubai with two-time Paralympic champion Peter Norfolk.

With the London 2012 Paralympics fast approaching in September, our long and hectic nine months to another gold medal ramps up now. Peter is still on the injury table and Dubai was the second stage of his recovery. He has been working really hard with the Tennis Foundation and LTA medical teams to try and get back to full fitness prior to the Australian Open and it’s looking good so far.

The aim of the camp was to push Pete day-by-day under the close eye of his amazing coach (me!) and the medical expert, his wife and former British Paralympic Association physiotherapist, Linda.

Peter Norfolk on court in Dubai

Pete trained twice everyday and that is a big improvement on past weeks when he’s been struggling to hit so many balls. After each session he used a very cool gizmo called the Compex 400 Rehab Kit that the LTA medical guys supplied for him. The gadget helped to stimulate the muscles through electrical pulses. It worked pretty well although he did look a bit like a victim from Alien just before the creature bursts out of the body!

It was about 25 degrees on court for our afternoon sessions which was great for acclimatisation ahead of the Sydney and Australian Opens later this month. We tried to work his schedule to replicate a typical tournament and simulated tough three-set matches at the end of the week to get his body used to playing finals when he’s already tired.

Peter Norfolk sampling some local food in Dubai

On the plus side, we sampled some tasty Asian food (which the chef above cooked in front of us) and I’ve now got a much better idea of how we can plan Pete’s tournaments, training and rest periods for the coming year. On the down side, I had to spend New Year’s Eve in my hotel room alone with a bucket of KFC as the athlete had an early night! I was tempted to go out and sample a Dubai New Year but the prices at the local venues were a bit too steep for me and fried chicken is one of my favourite foods after all! Not that any of my players are allowed to eat anything like that…

Statues in a Dubai mall

Dubai was a really cool place and the malls there were incredible (the statues above were just hanging about in a local mall!) but I’m glad to be back at home now and see my wife and two kids. But it’s quickly back into the routine and I’m on court tomorrow at 7am with British No.2 Andy Lapthorne, who is Pete’s doubles partner and No.4 in the world in singles.

Then we’re off on our travels again as we head out to Sydney next week ready for the Super Series there before the wheelchair tennis event at the Australian Open at the end of January. Pete and Andy are defending their doubles title at the Grand Slam and I’m confident they can do it. Good luck Down Under guys!


British Tournaments 2012

PrestonNorth West Wheelchair Tennis
ITF Futures, 23rd – 26th Feb
SunderlandNorthern Counties Wheelchair Tennis, ITF3, 29 Feb - 3 March
West BridgfordLearning Disability Tournament, 31 March - 1 April
Eton ManorOlympic Park Test Event, ITF3, 2 - 6 May
GoslingDeaf Tennis Nationals, 5 - 7 May
WimbledonWheelchair Tennis Doubles, Grand Slam, 6 - 8 July
NottinghamBritish Open Wheelchair Tennis, ITF Super Series, 17 - 22 July
Eton ManorWheelchair Tennis, Paralympic Games, 1 - 8 September
NottinghamIndoor Wheelchair Tennis, ITF2, 25 - 28 October

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