A glimpse into the life of wheelchair tennis player Jef Vandorpe

15 May 2020

Jef Vandorpe


Name: Jef Vandorpe
Age: 18 years
birthplace: Saint-Nicolas
top sport: wheelchair tennis
course of study: Law, University of Antwerp
background info: Jef vandorpe was diagnosed with Perthes at the age of 8.5, which means he is now in a wheelchair. Jef Vandorpe, top athlete and law student. How does he fill his days in quarantine? Being 15th in the world wheelchair tennis rankings, how does that feel? How -on earth- can he combine his top sport with his law studies? We will explore these questions and more, in this article, because we will definitely hear about this young man!

When did you know: "wheelchair tennis, that's for me"?

Before Jef got his diagnosis, he was a real bouncer. "I did all kinds of activities like: scouts, volleyball, jiujitsu and swimming. I had never tried tennis then, but my parents wanted to sign me up for a tennis camp that summer holiday. They were never able to do this because my Perthes diagnosis put a stop to it. My parents really wanted me to move forward. So they came up with the idea of letting me try wheelchair tennis. And with success as it turns out! (laughs)"

What sacrifices do you have to make as an elite athlete?

"Obviously, a lot of time creeps into training and travelling abroad. The sacrifices can range from the smallest things, to bigger, important ones. For example, I used to often have to miss birthday parties and family celebrations. The sacrifice is obviously never pleasant, but when you see what you get in return, it's all not too bad."

Is planning an important factor in your life?

"An even better word to describe it than planning is finding the ideal balance between everything (the combination of top athlete and law studies, nvdr). It is difficult to say in advance what time I will work for school or when I have free time. It could be that I have had a hard workout and just lying on the couch I would fall asleep on the spot. So by finding that balance, I can give my busy life more structure."

So what do you do to relax?

"I love reading a good book, I can also enjoy a good series or movie. During the quarantine period, I also like to skype with my friends sometimes to still maintain social contact." So you see, as an elite athlete, he also just relaxes like you and me.

How do you approach training in times of quarantine?

"I am grateful that training can still continue, despite this period. "Jef was allowed to continue training because he was very likely to compete in the Paralympic Games, at the end of August. Unfortunately, these have now also been cancelled, as have all tournaments up to 12 July. Despite all this, Jef is still highly motivated: "I can now focus more on task-oriented goals, instead of result-oriented ones. On the latter I have to focus especially when training towards a tournament."

How do you experience being a 15the in the world ranking wheelchair tennis to stand?

At this question, Jef still hesitated for a moment. "Not especially, it's just my sport which I very much enjoy. I have a lot of ambition to get even better, further and higher up the rankings. Paralympic sports are generally given much less attention than regular sports, so this brings with it a certain modesty."

Do you have any golden advice you want to pass along?

"Don't give up, whatever happens keep going and look forward! You can only learn from the past and use that knowledge now and in the future; then everyone can handle much more than what they expect." Great message from top wheelchair tennis athlete Jef Vandorpe! I want to thank Jef Vandorpe very much, that he accepted our proposal & for the pleasant and smooth conversation! Playing top sport at such a high level, combining this with law studies and still remaining so down to earth ... He is an example for us all, Thanks for inspiring us, Jef!

this article was written by:
Anke Wyffels
Community builder My Add On
Marketing trainee

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