#ACE Spotlight: "How tennis saved my life"

Tony Costa for #ACE landing page

Tony, you’ve been on an incredible journey in the past few years. Tell us where your story begins.

Well, I weighed over 26 stone. I was diagnosed as being morbidly obese  and I was 65 years old. It all started when my wife and I lost our baby son, Timothy, at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with a congenital heart defect. We had no idea that was going to happen. We lived at Alder Hey for over five months and he sadly died after three operations. We had resigned from our jobs, our house was burgled and we were just at the end of the line. We moved to Wales, where I became a supply teacher and just didn’t realise the impact the tragedy had on me or us. I was a dead man walking; I was very depressed and I couldn’t care less what happened to me. I had shut the bad memory of everything away in the corner of my mind and it led to me putting on all the weight. I just couldn’t deal with it; it was such a painful part of our lives. It was a slow process of about six years after our son died in 1997.

What sparked the change in you to lose the weight you had gained? How did playing tennis help?

Well I used to play around 40 years ago. I had played in the Oldham league, but I had stopped playing since then and hadn’t touched a racket. But I had fond memories of playing from back then in those days. I met somebody when I was walking the dog and he was a member of a tennis club. I couldn’t kick a ball, let alone bend down to pick one up. I had joined Slimming World for a year and I lost about eight stone in that time. But I got bored of it and needed some physical activity, which is when my wife and I took up tennis.

How did you find that after such a long time away from the game?

It was fantastic. We started with the seniors, playing at a club called Craig y Don Tennis Club in Llandudno. The seniors were very forgiving and we started getting coaching from a very passionate young man named Craig Stock, who is a level four coach. He runs a company called Love The Challenge and his passion for tennis really fired us up. He was so enthusiastic and passionate about it, it just rubbed off on us. We were soon playing all the time and I play between eight and 10 hours a week now.

How is it playing tennis now that you’re a couple of years back in to the sport?

I’m 68 now, so mobility is an issue, especially with my knees and the fact I had been carrying that extreme weight. But I’m working on it. I mostly play doubles and I have good racket skills. I have a good serve, too. I’m a good club player now, even though my mobility is not where it should be.

How much do you weigh now?

I’m around the 15 stone mark now. I’ve lost around 11 stone since I started with my weight loss plan, with tennis being a major factor in that weight being lost. It saved my life. I’ve got the last bit to get rid of to reach my target weight, but that’s tough. I want to lose the fat around my stomach, which is the most dangerous fat to have.

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