Three years after having his left leg partially amputated due to a congenital disorder, Martin De la Puente took up wheelchair tennis in 2010 and, since then, has enjoyed plenty of success.
The Spanish 17-year-old currently leads the junior world ranking and will make his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016.
“In the beginning, I did not like the idea of having to sit on a wheelchair to play tennis,” said De la Puente, who has Proteus syndrome which causes bones and skin overgrowth.
“But I tried, liked it and realized it could be fun. I have always liked competing and wheelchair tennis has opened a whole world, unknown to me until then.”
De la Puente knows that with France’s world No. 1 Stephane Houdet, Japan’s reigning Paralympic gold medallist Shingo Kunieda and Argentina’s Roland Garros champion Gustavo Fernandez competing, it will be hard for him to win gold in Rio.
But he is hoping September’s Paralympic Games can provide him with the necessary experience ahead of future competitions.
“I am still far from the best, but would like to qualify for Tokyo 2020 with chances of winning a medal,” he said.
“Rio 2016 is going to be a big sporting celebration. Sharing the Paralympic village with athletes from different sports and countries, and having the media attention will be incredible.
“Qualifying for the Paralympics makes training hard and all the effort I have been making worthwhile.”
Next year, De la Puente will start college, where he plans to study either engineering or business administration.
“I would like to go to the Netherlands, where there are study programmes for high-performance athletes,” he said.
“Besides, it is one of the strongest countries in wheelchair tennis.”
When he is not training, De la Puente can be seeing playing video games, hanging out with his friends or playing wheelchair basketball.
“Last year, I started to play for a team in Vigo, Spain, at the national second division,” he said.
“I have lots of fun and it is very different from playing an individual sport such as wheelchair tennis, where all the pressure is on your shoulders.”
De la Puente, who profoundly admires Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, is hoping to one day claim Wimbledon title like his hero did.
“Nadal symbolizes hard work and humility. My father always says how lucky we are to watch him play,” he said.
“Competing at Wimbledon, like Nadal did many times, would be a dream come true for me because it is the cradle of tennis.
“I know that if I keep working hard, I will eventually have the opportunity to become one of the best wheelchair tennis players in the world.”
Editor’s note: “Faces of the Future” is a series published once a month on Paralympic.org that introduces you to some of the young, rising talent in para-sport.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.