After narrowly missing the cut for two previous Paralympic Games, few would blame Antony Cotterill if he had given up on his dream of representing his country at the highest level of all.
But, thanks to his grit and determination to succeed, it’s third time lucky for the tennis star as he is now set for his Paralympic debut after being selected for the ten-strong tennis squad bound for Rio.
Cotterill, who plays in the quad class after breaking his neck in a swimming pool accident 13 years ago, missed out on selection for the Beijing and London Games, but with nine singles titles to his name, the time is nigh for the 36-year-old to step up to the greatest stage.
And while he admits missing out on two previous Games were painful experiences, Cotterill (main picture, bottom right) is brimming with confidence and insists he couldn’t be happier to be on his way to Brazil.
“I am absolutely buzzing, I am very excited and it is going to be an amazing experience,” he said.
“Preparation has been really good and I have had a great season so far. My game is where it should be at this stage and I am very confident.
“This will be my first Games, I missed out narrowly in 2008 and 2012 and so it was a special moment when I knew I would be going.
“I missed out by one ranking spot in Beijing and London was tougher because I missed the home Games, so this is great.
“I found out a few weeks ago and it was very exciting. It is not just for me, I have a big team behind and everybody has been very supportive in the last 12 years.”
Cotterill, who plays tennis full-time, first took up the sport for rehabilitation purposes following the accident that left him wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
Remarkably, less than two years after his accident, Cotterill gained his first quad singles world ranking in August 2005, and won his first title 17 months later.
And while missing out on two Games made him question his future in the sport, Cotterill admits he is in the best shape of his career and is ready to show what he can do.
“I started all this for fun but it hurt missing out in 2008, so I went for it much more,” he said. “Because of the depth we had in the squad in London, I was not there again and it hurt, but I was so much more determined.
“I almost stopped after London, there were times where I thought I am not cut out for it but you have to push those thoughts to the back of your mind.
“I came close to quitting a few times if I’m honest. I was not enjoying it as much as I should have been, but it’s addictive – you can’t leave it alone.
“The main aim for me is to play like I did in training. If I do that then I will give everyone a game. I have started to bring that form out into the arena but I need to be more consistent.
“I am massively confident with where I am with my game, my coach is happy and so am I.
“I was a lot more focused after London in terms of what I needed to do to get here and that has helped my mind-set.
“I did not do anything differently, but it was the mental improvement that helped so much.”
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