Newport, RI, USA - Former wheelchair tennis world No.1 Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch believes the sport leads the way in integrating wheelchair athletes.
The 52-year-old says tennis helped her regain her health after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 14 and feels it can play a vital part in helping others recover.
"Wheelchair tennis is spreading across the world," said Kalkman, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday. "Other countries are catching up really well. This is a great sport for people with disabilities. Wheelchair tennis is so well integrated into the sport. The fact wheelchair tennis is part of all the Grand Slams is fantastic, better than in any other sport.
"How magic and powerful is tennis? We get so much through the sport. It has given me my health back, not only physically but mentally and socially. I have been so lucky I had tennis in my life - now I want to give back and I want to pass that on to the next generation."
Kalkman took up wheelchair sport after being paralyzed from the waist down due to her cancer treatment. Originally playing table-tennis - in which she won the first of her four Paralympic golds, in 1984 - Kalkman moved back to her original love, tennis, as the wheelchair sport grew in popularity.
She would go on to win three further Paralympic golds between 1992 and 1996, becoming the first and only woman to win golds in two individual Paralympic sports. As well as becoming world No.1 in both singles and doubles competition, she was also ITF world champion four times. Since retiring, she has worked for her sponsor, who supply equipment for disabled people in the Netherlands, and also acts as an ambassador for the ITF. She was awarded the 'Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion' - a Dutch order of chivalry given to emminent individuals.
"After my tennis career, I started to work a lot, not playing tennis any more," she continues. "After 10 years I had some injuries - I had to play sports again. I chose golf. I really set my goal now to help golf become a great sport for people with disabilities as well, like it is with tennis."
On Saturday, she became the fifth wheelchair player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, receiving the honour at a ceremony in Rhode Island. "To become a part of this is awesome, it's an incredible feeling," she said at her induction in Newport. "It's unbelievable, beyond words. This place is [like] breathing the history and culture of the sport. It holds the greatest names, the greatest memories."
Fellow inductees Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick paid tribute to Kalkman's work. "Monique, you are a champion and an incredible competitor," Clijsters said. "Congratulations to you and your family." Roddick echoed those sentiments: "What an inspiration. Your story here today - I didn't know when the tears would come but they came earlier than expected. It's amazing. You are a true inspiration."