A gold-medal winning Paralympian begins her quest for a unique third gold in three different disciplines when she competes at the yourgolftravel.com Disabled British Open golf championship this month.
Dutch woman Monique Kalkman, 47, has already won Paralympic gold in wheelchair table-tennis and tennis and has now set her sights on golf, which she started playing only in 2009, after she was struck by cervical dystonia, a chronic neck problem.
Cancer at the age of 14 resulted in the tennis starlet being paralysed from the waist down, but it did not prevent her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a world-class sportswoman.
Kalkman, from Almere, a city 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam, won the gold medal for table-tennis in 1984, at Stoke Mandeville, and switched to wheelchair tennis two years later. She then won singles and doubles tennis gold at Barcelona, in 1992, and took doubles gold again and a silver in the singles four years later in Atlanta. She was ranked world number one between ’92 and ’96 and was the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation world champion for four successive years between ’92 and ’95.
A winner of a staggering 42 other titles worldwide, Kalkman retired from competitive sport in 1997, but has subsequently developed a passion for golf and her entry into Britain’s foremost disabled golf tournament is the first step towards achieving her new ambition – hopefully coinciding with the sport’s inclusion in the 2020 Paralympic Games.
The former world no1 in both disciplines explained: “Hopefully golf will be included in the Paralympics and I like to aim high. When I play sport, I’m used to, and love, giving everything and challenging myself. I’m used to setting goals, breaking them down into manageable steps and building towards them.
“I also love to ‘build’ in my job. I develop projects for participation of people with disabilities. I’ve just set up the Welzorg Racing Team, the first car-racing team for people with disabilities in the Netherlands, and I’ve just headed up the development of the innovative tennis wheelchair of Esther Vergeer, the current wheelchair tennis world and Paralympic champion.
“I chose to take up golf ahead of other sports because it has so many interesting sides; the technical and the mental challenges attract me, as well as the great outdoors. Being able to play sport in a standing position feels unbelievable and really good for the body – it gives a feeling of freedom. But also the fact I’m on eye level and playing sport on an integrated basis is great.
“As a therapy for the cervical dystonia, I picked up golf as the swing movement and the standing would benefit me. And it did. I made good progress in my recovery, although the right side of my neck and upper torso are still somewhat stiff. At the same time I got hooked by the game. I love ball sports and I love the process of learning to master a new game.
“My husband and my son, Justin, play as well. This is one of the few sports my husband likes and we can play together.”
Although she lived in the UK for six years, between 1997 and 2003, in Pedmore in the Midlands, she has returned to her home country where, for the last five years, she has combined a role as a motivational speaker and ambassador for the International Tennis Foundation with her management position at Welzorg, the largest supplier of equipment for people with disabilities in the Netherlands.
She added: “There are several reasons I chose to play in this year’s yourgolftravel.com Disabled British Open. I heard on tour that it is one of the best tournaments around – the UK is the ‘Mecca’ of golf – and because we love the UK it still feels a little like coming home. Justin was born in the UK and he always loves to go back too.
“And we will combine it with going to the Paralympic Games after the tournament. I’m going there to receive the Brad Parks Award, an international award in wheelchair tennis for my contribution to the sport over the years both on and off the court.”
Lindsey Horton, project manager for the yourgolftravel.com Disabled British Open’s promoter Remarkable Events, said: “I don’t think it’s going over the top to say that Monique is a living legend in Paralympic terms. She is the first, and currently only, two-discipline gold medallist and it would take a brave individual to bet against her achieving a third if she sets her mind to it.
“Naturally we are delighted to be able to welcome such a renowned sportswoman into our fold and we’re sure she’ll revel in the competition and the unique social atmosphere the yourgolftravel.com Disabled British Open creates.”
The Disabled British Open was conceived in 2009 and delivered by the Accentuate project, funded by SEEDA and the Legacy Trust UK, to create a lasting legacy after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games and the junior event has been a continuation of the project’s hard work.
Last year the DBO received support from far and wide including the UK Government – both the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP, and the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, praised it for its inclusivity and legacy – the sport’s governing body, the R&A, the European Tour and Wealden District Council.
Monique Kalkman www.moniquekalkman.nl/index_english.html
Disabled British Open www.disabledbritishopen.org