Jiske Griffioen began the Paralympic year in fantastic form after winning twice in Australia in January. The Dutch star is looking for gold in Rio 2016, and she added that there are more accolades to claim this year.
“A gold medal would mean the world to me. After two silver medals in doubles and one bronze medal in singles [at the Paralympics], gold would be a very important part of my collection, but it wouldn’t complete it,” said Griffioen.
Griffioen has never won a gold medal at the three Paralympic Games she has competed in. In 2008 at the Beijing Paralympics, she claimed silver in the doubles. Then in London, she took another silver in the doubles and a bronze in the singles.
Indeed, a Paralympic gold medal has been overdue, as well as other titles.
“I have never won the US Open and Wimbledon in singles, so there are still some more titles on my wish list,” she said. “However, Paralympic gold is something very special and it has been my goal for the last few years, so to complete it would be amazing.”
After winning the NEC Masters at the end of 2015, the world No. 1 got 2016 off to the perfect start with the two singles victories in Australia in January.
Griffioen started the year with a win at the Sydney Wheelchair Tennis Open. She only lost two sets throughout the tournament as she beat Yui Kamiji in the singles final 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
The 30-year-old then won the Australian Open singles for the second successive year; it was her first time defending a Grand Slam title, and she did so without dropping a set. In 2015, she beat Kamiji in the singles final 6-3, 7-5, whilst this year she beat fellow Dutch star, Aniek van Koot in straight sets 6-3, 7-5.
“It was exciting to get back onto the court again at the beginning of a Paralympic year. It's a fresh start and the good results of last year are no guarantee for this year,” Griffioen said.
“I was happy with my level at the beginning of the year transitioning from indoor to outdoor again and this start gives me confidence for the rest of the year.”
Two Grand Slams precede September’s Games in Rio, making for a packed year in wheelchair tennis, with Roland Garros in June and Wimbledon in July.
“The Paralympics are this year but it’s important to keep focused on the next match. There are plenty more important tournaments this year, like Roland Garros and Wimbledon, so I will keep going like I have been and try not to let the Paralympics distract me too much,” Griffioen said.
“The Paralympics are going to be another great tournament this year, where you want to perform well, like the Grand Slams and the Masters.”
Similar to the Grand Slams and the Masters, all the players will be raising their performances as they challenge for the medals, creating a stronger battle amongst the top 10.
“In a Paralympic year there are always players who step up. Everybody is just trying to work a little bit harder,” Griffioen said.
“In the men’s division (Britain’s) Gordon Reid stepped up as the one to beat in Australia. From China, [Zhenzhen] Zhu caused some big upsets in the women's draw. It's going to be an interesting year.”
“A Paralympic year is always amazing. It's only once every four years you have the chance to win a medal at the Games. There is more attention for Paralympic sports in Paralympic years. So we can really showcase our sport which we love so much and make sure the public gets to love wheelchair tennis.”
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will take place from 7-18 September, attracting 4,350 athletes from 176 countries competing for 528 medals in 22 sports.
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.