Former tennis star Katie O'Brien to take part in London Marathon in aid of WheelPower charity
FORMER Hessle tennis star Katie O'Brien is back training – but this time for the London Marathon.
She will be joined by her brother James and sister Holly to try to raise £6,000 for the charity WheelPower.
Since retiring from the game a year-and-a-half ago Katie, 26, has been coaching wheelchair tennis players.
She said: "I started picking up a bit of coaching experience when I stopped playing tennis professionally.
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"I then started doing work with some of the best British wheelchair tennis players, having never previously worked with disabled people.
"Last year was a monumental year for many of them as they had the opportunity to compete in a home Paralympics."
Katie, who reached a career-high of 87 in the world, believes she can help provide others with the opportunities that gave her a memorable sporting career.
She said: "Taking part in sport has so many benefits.
"I can testify to that as playing tennis has provided me with so many opportunities and it's no different for disabled people.
"The Paralympics really highlighted how much the role of sport has transformed the lives of disabled people.
"The wheelchair tennis players I work with come from varying backgrounds and have a whole range of disabilities."
The money Katie, Holly and James hope to raise will be much-needed.
Katie said: "Sports wheelchairs aren't cheap, often costing in excess of £3,000.
"WheelPower aims to help remove this barrier, as well as increasing opportunities for disabled people to get involved in sport.
"We hope we can help by raising money for them."
Despite her sporting background, Katie says she is having to put the work into training.
She said: "Training has been going surprisingly well so far. I'm following a 16-week training plan I downloaded.
"I'm used to the discipline of doing training sessions from my time playing professional tennis, but I'm not so used to running mile after mile – it's relentless.
"To be fair, I've got a bit more time on my hands than my brother and sister, so I've got no excuses for not getting the training done."
Holly works as a solicitor in London and is getting married in June to London Welsh and former Scotland rugby player Gordon Ross, while James is a GP in Bradford.
While based down south, Katie has not forgotten her roots.
She said: "I'm living in London but try to get back up to Hessle when I can, as our parents and grandparents still live there.
"I'm now a qualified coach and have been working part-time with the British wheelchair tennis team and sometimes with some of the best British able-bodied girls.
"I'm based mainly in London but I also travel overseas with them to international tournaments now and again."
The former British number one is now hoping to become a lawyer.
She said: "I started studying a law degree with the Open University while I was still playing professionally.
"I should finish it by the end of the year, so I've got my work cut out this year with assignments to complete and exams to sit.
"It's good to get outside and go for a run when I'm studying – it keeps me sane."
Visit http://uk.virginmoney giving.com/team/hjkobrien if you would like to sponsor Katie, Holly or James.