‘I’ve fallen in love with someone that happens to be a woman, but for me, I’m Lucy’: Double Paralympic medallist Lucy Shuker chats life on and off the court
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Lucy Shuker is a Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis Player with a career best ranking of World No.5 in Singles and World No.3 in Doubles. A Double Paralympic medallist, Lucy is also a former World Doubles Champion, four time Wimbledon Double’s Finalist, multiple World Team Cup medallist and National Champion, with over 100 career titles to her name.
Currently on the LTA’s World Class Wheelchair Tennis Performance Programme, Lucy started playing Wheelchair Tennis in 2002 following a motorbike accident. She has since gone on to represent Great Britain at three successive Paralympics: Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, twice winning Bronze in the women’s doubles.
But, Lucy’s success isn’t solely on the tennis court, off court she speaks of her great happiness too. With the month of June marking Pride across the globe, Lucy chatted to BBC Sound’s LGBT Sport Podcast about her life off court, acknowledging how acceptance has led to happiness.
Speaking about her sexuality, Lucy commented: ‘Publicly I don’t shout about it and I don’t like to put a label on me. I’ve fallen in love with someone that happens to be a woman, but for me, I’m just Lucy. I don’t necessarily feel that people have to be stuck in a label. My performances on the court are not because of my sexuality. People who know me, know me as Lucy and the fact that my partner’s a female is just how it is. I think everyone who gets to know me just accepts me for who I am.’
‘When I was growing up I had boyfriends, so it’s one of those things where you start to have feelings and when you first fall in love with somebody who’s of the same sex, you’re sometimes battling with that within yourself. I remember going to my brother’s wedding and thinking I could be robbing parents of this day if I was to be in a relationship with a woman, but obviously there are same sex marriages too. To me, I’m happy with who I am and who I’m in love with. If I need to be labelled as gay I’m happy to be labelled as that.’
‘For my parents, when I had my accident, they got to meet a lot of my friends they potentially wouldn’t have met before. I had friends who were going through transition and my nana actually met them and then they suddenly realised that just because someone might look a little bit more masculine, that actually they had the biggest of hearts and the gentlest of natures. They actually accepted my sexuality far easier at that point. So, in some ways my accident was a blessing.’
With life off the court in good shape, Lucy touched on life on the court, talking about the impact of Covid-19 on tournaments and training.
‘It’s a really strange time (at the moment). Tennis is different to other sports as we compete in 20-25 tournaments a year and there are Grand Slams too, so you want to peak at different times, not just at the Paralympics. It’s actually given me an extra year to work on my game as there are some areas I want to improve. I’ve got another year to work hard and to be better and let’s see what I can do in that year.
And on her success to date…?
‘I think when people remind me and you suddenly take a step back and look back at what I’ve achieved, you kind of sit there and go ‘yeah, I’ve done alright’. For someone who broke their back and who’s pretty high-level disability, having beaten girls that can walk, for me I’ve really pushed the boundaries and proven some people wrong. I still would love to win a Grand Slam. That’s something I think that any tennis player would love to win. Whether I achieve it or not, I’m still working hard.’
‘And then taking a step back and helping other people and supporting them when they’ve had a life-changing accident, or seeing new children getting involved in wheelchair tennis and seeing the joy on their face. I love giving back and seeing that. So the achievements I’ve got and the titles I’ve won and the Paralympic medals, I’m just as proud in helping get somebody else into the sport.’
Lucy has recently been announced as the LTA’s National School Sport Champion – working closely with the LTA and Youth Sport Trust to use her voice and public profile to reinforce the importance of physical education and school sport to young people and communities.