Being given the opportunity to see into the world of elite sport and to be able to gun for the highest levels of sporting excellence myself is a true privilege

Cornelia Oosthuizen

Cornelia served with the British Army, Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC) Educational and Training Services (ETS) and her time in service saw her deployed to Afghanistan.

In June 2014, during the Army Lawn Tennis Association’s Championships, her peripheral and central nervous systems malfunctioned causing severe pain in her right foot and lower limb. She was later diagnosed with Type 1 Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and discharged from the Army in April 2016.

She copes daily with joint stiffness as well as a non-stop burning and deep aching pain in her right foot and lower leg and has had to learn to pace herself physically and mentally to compensate for the energy her body uses up to deal with the pain.

It has been difficult to acknowledge the real physical and mental limitations I experience as a result of suffering from CRPS. I have also found dealing with an unknown prognosis tricky. However, I am still learning how best to adapt my life in a way that limits the debilitating effects the chronic pain has on my mental wellbeing. I recently started to incorporate sport into my rehabilitation routine which has been the most effective morale boost to date.”

During her Army career, Cornelia captained the Army Ladies’ and Combined Services Ladies’ tennis and competed at several Inter-Services Championships. Post-injury, the progression to wheelchair tennis was a natural one to make and she secured bronze medal success at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. This year will see her compete on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) circuit to gain a world ranking.

I’ve played tennis from a young age and always dreamt about winning Wimbledon and playing the sport professionally. Sport has always played a big role in my life and competing is something I have dearly missed. Having the focus back that sport brings to your life is immense, especially when competing at the highest levels possible is thrown into the mix. Sport is one of the most constructive diversions from the relentless levels of pain I experience. Mentally it helps me to feel like my old self again, gunning it out on the court and competing with the will to win never far from the surface.

When I was told the news about PiP, I was in disbelief for a moment promptly followed by an incredible sense of surprise, joy, excitement, pride, duty and humility.

Being given the opportunity to see into the world of elite sport and to be able to gun for the highest levels of sporting excellence is a true privilege and a long-held childhood dream come true! I will give it everything I’ve got.”

Cornelia Oosthuizen, a military veteran, is taking part in the 2018 Paralympic Inspiration Programme with Help for Heroes and will be going out to PyeongChang.