I am a competitive badminton player who competed at top levels and suffered quite a few serious injuries including tearing my Achilles tendon around 2011 and was out for 12 weeks. Coming back to serious competition was a long and lonely road filled with pain, frustration and self-doubt. I have been a fan of Maria for a long time (before she even won Wimbledon in 2004!) I was inspired by her not only for her fierce determination and mental strength on court, but also for her will, fortitude and self-belief in how she coped with career-threatening injuries and the return to being one of the best in the world again.
The most inspirational moment for me was watching her win the 2012 French Open. Her speech about how she fought against all odds (and injuries) to win on her least favourite surface (at that time!) and triumph in being the only second active player to hold all four Grand Slam titles moved me to tears. I was filled with the mixed emotion of pride (for Maria) and shame for myself. Maria inspired me that day not to give up, to fight for what I am passionate about and to believe that I was the only one that was holding me back.
Slowly but surely I regained my strength, fitness and competitive drive to succeed again. Attached are a couple of photos of me returning to top level badminton competition (wearing Maria's 2012 French Open dress, but of course!) and winning the women's doubles competition in that tournament! I didn't get to give a speech but if I did, I would have thanked Maria and would have dedicated my win to her. She is my heroine and inspiration!
Love you Maria and will always believe in you and all that you stand for! Thank you for teaching me the importance of self-belief and to never let anyone dictate who you are and limit who you can be. My favourite Maria quote of all time, "I'm not the next anyone, I am the first and only Maria Sharapova!"
Powerful, elegant and inspirational :)
Auckland, New Zealand