We were honoured to welcome two-time Paralympian and world-class tennis player Lousie Hunt at our Tennis Party!
Inspirational Louise was in the top ten in the world of Paralympic tennis players at the height of her career and is a Wimbledon commentator this year. Her equally-famous fiancé Christopher Skelley MBE meanwhile, is a Paralympian Gold medallist in judo and was the ‘poster’ face for Tokyo 2020.
Our Celebrity Editor Angela Sara West @angela_sara_west spoke to Louise ahead of Saturday’s exciting event and Louise & Chris’ wedding!
Hi Louise, it’s such an honour to chat with you! What were you looking forward to most about Lady Wimbledon’s Tennis Party?
This was the first time I have attended a Lady Wimbledon event and I honestly had the best time!! An exclusive Tennis party in a beautiful setting… what’s not to love?!! I’m so incredibly grateful to have been invited to this event – it was fun and laughter from start to finish, especially on the 360 camera shoot!
What do you love about Wimbledon – both the place and the tennis?
I love the class and elegance which sounds the whole area, but the Championships, in particular, hold a very special place in my heart. From remembering my first experience as a spectator at just five years-old, and feeling like all I want to do is play here one day, to that dream coming true in 2015 and 2016 when I competed there, it will forever hold special memories for me… Now, I get the privilege to still be involved in this event but on the media side of things, which is truly an honour.
And who are you rooting for this year?
Well, I was rooting for Andy Murray – I hugely admire his ambition, resilience, and love for the sport, and that he will continue to play for himself, and not let the many challenges he has faced stop him from achieving his goals.
So, you’re a commentator on the 2022 Championships… How can we tune in to listen to you?
Listen out for me on the red button, BBC Sport website, and also on the main channels towards the end of the Championships.
You’re a two-time Paralympian and have amassed over 100 titles in singles and doubles competitions yourself – what have been a few of the highlights of your incredible career?
Number one is obviously playing at Wimbledon, and I’m not just saying that – it really is the thing I am most proud of in my career. Playing in your home grand slam is most players’ dream come true and it was certainly mine. London 2012 also comes very close – the best thing about that Paralympics was that it was the first time disabled sport was seen and treated equally to able-bodied sports and ever since it’s had a huge impact across the board. I feel privileged to have participated in those Games and to have witnessed the positive change they created.
How was your experience of the Paralympics?
The Paralympics is a truly unique event and to have competed at two of them makes me feel very proud. There is no other event in the world which compares in terms of scale as the Games, and it has given me memories which I’ll never forget. London 2012 especially, the sound of entering a stadium with 80,000 people cheering for your team, is a sound and feeling you never forget.
How did it feel to find out you’d made the Disability Power 100 list, and when you received the PLY letters after your name?
Being nominated for the Disability Power 100 list alone was such an honour but to make it on there was even more of a surprise and privilege. To be listed alongside some truly remarkable people felt very humbling – it was lovely to be recognised for the work I do.
To obtain PLY after my name was SO incredibly exciting. For me, this felt like a turning point in terms of equality and recognising Paralympians for our hard work and determination to succeed in our field.
What drives you, and what inspired you to pursue your dreams to become a Paralympic athlete?
What drives me everyday is breaking down barriers for others with disabilities and changing attitudes and stereotypes. I strongly believe everyone has a potential to fulfil, regardless of disability, and this is what drives me to keep succeeding. I want to show that anything is possible if you are willing to work hard and overcome barriers and challenges, which you will inevitably face along the way.
You’re all about breaking down barriers, balancing education/work with sport, diversities and challenges, and inspiring people to follow their dreams and ambitions… Tell me a little about your role as Athlete Mentor for the Youth Sport Trust, and your involvement with The LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis Initiative Talent Spot Days…
I absolutely love my role as an Athlete Mentor. It’s a role I have done for many years now and what I love about it most is the way in which we use sport as a tool to help young people learn important and crucial life skills, such as employability, communication and leadership skills. That’s what I love about sport. Yes, it’s great that you become great at the physical sport itself, but it can teach you so much more than that. I may have learnt how to hit a ball well, but it’s the lessons and skills around that which have made me who I am today and carry with me. I love that in my mentor role I get to help young people learn those vital, lifechanging skills too.
Your fiancé, Chris, is a Paralympian gold medallist in judo and was the ‘poster’ face for Tokyo 2020… You must both be SO excited about him receiving his well-deserved MBE next month…?!!
We literally cannot wait! It feels like forever since we heard he was going to receive it, but we’re over the moon that the day is nearly here. I appreciate I’m biased, but I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving. Chris works harder than anyone I know and I’m delighted he’s being recognised for it. We also love dressing up, so we see it as a nice day out for us both and quality time together.
Tell me a little about your and Chris’ collab with Samanta Bullock for her inspiring fashion campaign, seeing you model at this year’s London Fashion Week…
It was such an incredible experience modelling at LFW… I have known Samanta for many years, so when she began her campaign to ensure fashion across the board is more inclusive, I was more than happy to be involved. I never thought it would lead to me to actually modelling but I absolutely loved it. I was so nervous, but I have to say it gave me a really big confidence boost and felt very refreshing to be a part of such a unique, diverse and inclusive event!
You work closely with several charities – tell me about your other ambassadorial roles and charity collabs.
I am an ambassador for a few charities which are very close to my heart. Get Kids Going helped me in my career from a very young age right up to when I retired last year, and I will forever remain in huge support of them as I couldn’t have achieved what I did without their support. I am also an ambassador for The Dan Maskell Tennis Trust. I love the difference they make to young disabled people’s lives and opportunities they create to get into tennis. I also recently became an ambassador for Wiltshire Air Ambulance. A truly outstanding and life-saving service which our community couldn’t do without!
Chris is a proud ambassador for Phoenix Enterprises (a local charity I work for) The charity offers support for adults with mental health and learning disabilities to find employment but offering a real-life simulated work environment, help with CV writing, interview practice and all-round support. The list is endless but makes a huge difference to its service users in helping them to become independent.
Finally, following Wimbledon, what’s next for Louise Hunt?
I’m, of course, super excited to see Chris get his MBE and I’m really looking forward to commentating and working at the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships the week after Wimbledon. I have a few school visits left this term and a talk at Oxford Brooks University, as well as continuing my work for a local charity where I support adults with disabilities and mental health issues find employment. Other than that, we are totally focused on our wedding in September. We’re so excited and are counting down the days to our special day!
Follow Louise on Insta: @louisehunt1
© Angela Sara West 2022 @angela_sara_west