Wheelchair tennis gave Marianne Page her 'life back' after accident

It’s been more than 35 years since Ronald Reagan stated, during his first inaugural address, “Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.” We discovered heroes in every state, starting with the determined 69-year-old who won a match at an ITF Pro Circuit event earlier this year in the Alabama town of Pelham, and culminating with the coach who has overcome multiple sclerosis to build a winning program at the University of Wyoming. Their compelling stories of courage, perseverance and achievement demonstrate that the message delivered by our 40th President rings as true today as it did then.

Severed spinal cord. Collapsed lungs. Lacerated liver. Broken ribs.

Marianne Page’s injuries following a devastating 1997 car accident were so severe that the nurse taking care of her that first night in the hospital didn’t think she would live to see the sun rise.

Page was just 23 years old at the time, a recent college graduate with a new job and a bright future. Perhaps it was her young, fit body, or maybe just a little bit of luck, but she survived the first night, and the next, and the next. In fact, her brush with death softened the blow of learning that she would likely never walk again.

Wheelchair tennis gave Marianne Page her 'life back' after accident

Wheelchair tennis gave Marianne Page her 'life back' after accident

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“I honestly thought it could be worse,” she says. “I lost the use of my legs, but I still had the rest of me. [I rehabbed] in a whole wing of spinal injuries and stroke victims. Looking around, it was easy to see that I was pretty fortunate.”

That attitude served Page well throughout years of rehab. She moved back in with her parents in her hometown of Payson, UT, while she learned to live with her disability. It was there that a friend swung by the house with a flyer for a wheelchair tennis clinic in Salt Lake City.

It had been 11 years since her accident, and Page figured it was time to try something new.

“By the end of that first day, my hands were covered in blisters, but I couldn’t wait to go back and try it again,” she says. “It got me back to doing things. Tennis gave me my life back.”

Just like she had with her rehab, Page poured herself into her new pursuit, competing in her first tournament just eight months after picking up a racquet for the first time. Today, seven years into her tennis career, the 42-year-old has held the No. 1 and No. 2 rank in the U.S. in doubles and singles, respectively. She’s also been ranked among the Top 50 players in the world.

More importantly, she’s given back to the Utah wheelchair tennis community, running weekly clinics for juniors and adults. Page has a soft spot for children, taking every opportunity to introduce young players to the sport that changed her life.

“It’s not about the tennis,” she says. “It’s more about life and showing them that they can do anything.”

Wheelchair tennis gave Marianne Page her 'life back' after accident

Wheelchair tennis gave Marianne Page her 'life back' after accident

While Page balks at being called an inspiration, she’s set an incomparable example for her fellow wheelchair athletes. In addition to playing tennis, she skis, kayaks, cycles, camps and bobsleds.

“Looking back, I’ve come a long way from those first days in those hospital rooms,” she says. “It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ve been able to do things I never thought possible.”