Wheelchair tennis star Alfie Hewett cleared to compete in Paris Paralympics
- Credit: PA
Norfolk wheelchair tennis star Alfie Hewett has revealed he WILL be able to participate in the Paraylmpics — even though an improvement in his condition means he can now walk.
The 23-year-old, from Cantley, has spent two years fearing he would be forced out of the sport after he claimed the governing body had suddenly "changed the goalposts" with regards to disability classification.
But as he received his honorary degree at a graduation ceremony for Easton and City College Norwich at Norwich Cathedral on Saturday, he said he was "buzzing" to reveal his reclassification assessment under the new criteria had been approved.
Addressing the crowd of graduates, he said: "Last weekend I went to Amsterdam and though this will become public on Monday I'm going to share the news with you now because I'm buzzing.
"I can actually tell you there will be more Alfie Hewett Grand Slams and Paralympics in the years to come.
"My agent will shoot me for saying this, but I don't care."
Mr Hewett, who has 18 grand slam titles, was told in 2019 his hip condition — known as Perthes disease — was not severe enough, and that his 2021 season may be his last.
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He said it had been a "cloud looming over him", but was immensely relieved he could now look forward to another shot at the Paris Paralympics in three years times — as well as the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Mr Hewett, who is an ex City College Norwich student, was presenting awards at the ceremony.
When he received his own honorary degree, he stood up out of his wheelchair to speak into the microphone, and said "surprise".
He went on: "I was diagnosed with Perthes disease when I was seven years old. It deteriorated and I ended up in a wheelchair.
"My condition has got better since then. I can walk but there's no way I could play tennis.
"So you can imagine what it was like being told I would no longer have a future in the sport.
"I'd just taken off in my career and reached the top of the world rankings. I wanted to continue playing this for a very long time."