Jul 01, 2019 LifeWear
On a beautifully sunny late June afternoon, we held an exciting event at our flagship UNIQLO store on Oxford Street to celebrate our continued partnerships with UK-based charity Whizz-Kidz and our Global Brand Ambassador Gordon Reid; professional tennis player and Grand Slam champion.

Whizz-Kidz is a charity UNIQLO have been proud to partner with for a number of events, projects and campaigns. Whizz-Kidz believes that every young disabled person has the right to a fun and active childhood and to be given the chance to develop to their full potential. The charity works to transform the lives of disabled children by providing the important equipment, support and life skills they need to flourish.

We invited a group of young people Whizz-Kidz works with to come and spend some time with Gordon in store.

The special event began upon Gordon’s arrival to a warm and welcoming round of applause from an audience of lucky attendees. Proceedings kicked off with a short talk from Gordon, during which he discussed the scope of his career so far, challenges he has faced and his own experience as a person who relies on a wheelchair in his day-to-day life.

“When I was twelve years old, just a week before my thirteenth birthday, I found out I had a neurological condition called transverse myelitis,” Gordon explained. “I went from one day running around and playing football as a healthy kid to being completely paralysed from the waist down. When I came out of hospital six months later, I felt like sport had been taken away from me.”

“I was introduced to wheelchair tennis by my parents and loved it straight away. The feeling of being back on the tennis court and being able to play with my family and friends again playing the sport I love was a great feeling for me.”

Gordon entered his first Paralympic Games at the age of just 16 in Beijing. A few years later, he found huge success when he finished the 2016 Rio Paralympic games with a silver medal in the doubles wheelchair tennis event and a gold medal in the singles.

That same year, Gordon won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian open, took the inaugural wheelchair singles’ title at Wimbledon and ended the calendar year as World Number 1. Today, he holds a staggering 11 grand slam titles; two in singles events and nine in doubles. Last month, Gordon reached the French Open final for the second time in his career.

“I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with grass court tennis”, Gordon went on to explain, looking ahead to an upcoming fortnight of tennis at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. “It’s fun to play on but it’s by far the most difficult surface for us to move on in the chairs. I’m glad it’s only two weeks of the year!”

Gordon ended his Q&A session with some valuable words of inspiration for the young audience members from Whizz-Kidz. “Whether it’s in sport or in any other career path, don’t let the fact that you’ve got a disability hold you back. You’re just another person who can contribute a lot to whichever part of society you decide to dedicate yourself to – don’t let anyone else tell you what you can’t do. I think you should trust yourself, believe in yourself and sometimes you might even surprise yourself with what you can do.”

Soon after, bowls of traditional strawberries and cream were served to guests while attendees had fun chatting and playing Nintendo Switch tennis.

Before joining in the games, Gordon gave MacKenzie from Whizz-Kidz (a fellow tennis enthusiast) some useful tips on how best to hit a ‘reverse backhand’ – a technique specific to wheelchair tennis which allows players to generate much more power and spin versus a conventional backhand.

Newly armed with world class advice on how to execute a great backhand, MacKenzie squared off against the 11-time Grand Slam champion on the big screen. A competitive match-up saw MacKenzie come out on top after a fiercely contested tie-breaker.

In advance of the event, each of the attendees from Whizz-Kidz had designed their own T-shirts to commemorate the occasion. These tops were printed on our UTMe machine and Gordon was presented with his own framed version of a collaboratively designed top (and another to wear himself).

Every lucky attendee of the event got the chance to choose their favourite of the T-shirts and take one home as a special souvenir.

We’d like to extend our thanks to Whizz-Kidz and our Global Brand Ambassador Gordon Reid for contributing to such a successful event and wish Gordon luck in his upcoming grass court tennis campaign.