A year ago, 19-year-old Australian athlete Courtney Webeck set a goal to become a world champion.
At the time the talented all-round sportsperson, who has a severe vision impairment, had only been playing blind and low-vision (BLV) tennis for a few months.
Her determination has paid off.
Webeck claimed the world title in her singles division at the start of September at the International Blind Tennis Association (IBTA) World Championships at Poland.
“I am pretty over the moon, and I am sure it will sink in in the next few days,” she said.
Webeck, who hails from Gloucester on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, said last year she set down three aims — to win a national title, represent Australia, and claim a world title.
“I sat down with my coach and we set those goals,” she said.
“To have achieved them nearly 12 months later to the day is pretty special.”
Medal haul at World Games
Webeck achieved the individual world title on the back of claiming a doubles tennis gold medal while representing Australia at the International Blind Sporting Federation World Games in Birmingham, United Kingdom in late August.
She claimed the win partnered with Sydney’s Grace Hobbs and also took home the bronze medal in her singles event.
Webeck also represented Australia at the games as part of the country’s first blind women’s cricket team, which took home a silver medal.
“I played the best tennis I probably ever have, and to walk away with a bronze medal at a World Games was pretty satisfying,’ she said.
“Then to go two better at Poland was amazing.”
First women’s blind cricket team
Webeck was vice-captain of the Australian women’s cricket team at the World Games and said it was a special experience.
“In the cricket I was lucky enough to step up and captain our first game against England where we took a win by seven wickets,” she said.
“So that was a pretty special moment, to captain our first ever Aussie women’s team and then to go through to the final and play India.
“We sadly lost that … but the Aussie girls played amazingly.”
Webeck lives with an eye condition which severely impairs her vision; she describes it as “like looking through a thick fog”.
It means she can’t see her opponent on the other side of a tennis court.
She said BLV tennis and cricket both required an intense amount of concentration and careful listening, and were played with special sound balls.
“Tennis is played with a ball with a bell in it and depending on the amount of sight the athlete has, there are different numbers of bounces allowed,” she said.
During competitions where more than one game is played at once, filtering different sounds can be challenging.
“There was a lot of noise having court by court beside us, but you just have to focus in on your ball.
“I normally count off the racket how many seconds ago they hit and things like that … going down to those small little details is very important.”
Webeck is now enjoying some downtime, before flying back to Australia.
“The response has been incredible … the support couldn’t have been more impressive,” she said.
“The past weeks competing have flown by … there’s always been another event, another competition, another game coming up.
“But it’s very rewarding to sit here now and look back … there will be a lot of reflection and recovery.”