Whiley, from Halesowen, grew up with a tennis racket in her hand – following in the footsteps of her father Keith, who competed in athletics at the 1984 Stoke Mandeville & New York Paralympics, taking bronze in the 100m L3.He also played on the wheelchair tennis circuit.
Both father and daughter suffer with osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bone disease. And Whiley, an only child, told how she was just three when she was handed a tennis racket.
“I was out in Israel with my dad,” recalled Whiley, now 29, who has bronze medals from both London and Rio Paralympics. “And I had a broken leg, so I couldn’t really do much.
“One of his friends gave me a tennis racket, a tiny one. I was hitting with it at the tournament, and I got a little trophy, because I was the youngest person they’d ever seen play tennis.
“I think everyone was really amazed and just loving it. Everyone was feeding me balls, and I was playing every day all day.”
Keith was delighted to have something athletic in common with his daughter, and enrolled her in lessons at Billesley Tennis Centre almost as soon as they got home.
“He found me my first coach,” said Whiley, “and he was my coach for a little while when I was younger. He paid for all of my lessons, he used to book all of my flights, he would literally do absolutely everything for me.
“My mum (Julie) retired very early from work so that she could take care of me as a baby, but also to travel the world with me when I was still underage.
“My parents sacrificed a lot for me when I was younger, so I’m really happy it paid off.”
And Whiley, who qualified as a mortgage advisor during lockdown, and has since specialised in working with athletes.
“I’ve been playing tennis my whole life,” she added. “The only thing I ever really wanted was the gold medal. I seemed to have achieved pretty much everything else.
It’s been a lifetime goal, but now I also feel like my massive why is my son, to make him proud. Like, look what my mum did. And if he had a gold medal he could take it into show-and-tell or something.”
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