Nora Moreno's Story
This article first appeared in the USTA Adaptive Tennis Newsletter - June 2021
From the heights of collegiate tennis success to injuries, depression and despair, and finally to the joy of giving back to the sport she loves.
Nora, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, did not pick up a tennis racquet until she was 9. As soon as she hit the first ball, she knew she had found a sport she loved. By age 11, she was a member of the Argentinian National Team.
At 18, she was given the opportunity to play in Europe for Ecuador, but she turned down the offer in order to pursue a college education. In 1979, with nothing but a letter of recommendation, she arrived in Austin, Texas to try out for the Steven F. Austin tennis team. It was not until she went to the University of Texas admission office and presented her letter that she realized Steven F. Austin was not in Austin and she was at the wrong university!
Dick King, the women's tennis coach at UT, allowed her to try out, and immediately called the coaches of Steven F. Austin and Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas to come and watch her play. Navarro College had a full scholarship available. She played there for two years, then finished her college tennis career on full scholarship at Steven F. Austin.
“My college years were great. I was playing tennis at a Division 1 school, and, at the same time, earning my degree in Computer Science.”
In 1984 she married and moved to Dallas. Her job at NCH Chemicals and her baby boy kept her busy but she found time to exercise, run, and play recreational tennis. In 2005, her life took a drastic turn. A serious fall left her with a below the knee amputation of her right leg and the loss of use of her dominant right hand. Nora spent 4 months in Parkland Hospital and 8 months in a wheelchair. An 8-hour nerve transfer operation in St. Louis did not repair the nerve damage to her right hand.
With the help of her son, family, friends, and co-workers, she fought through bouts of depression and worked on getting comfortable with her prosthesis and becoming a “lefty.” In May 2006 she was able to return to her job and start driving again. However, her prosthesis was very uncomfortable, and walking even short distances was painful.
Three years later, another accident nearly took her life. She fell while cooking and her clothing caught on fire. She sustained 4th degree burns over 40% of her body and spent 2 months in a medically induced coma. When she awoke, she was unable to speak or turn her body and she had lost sensation in her left hand. The years that followed were dark ones filled with pain and overwhelming sadness. And she thought she would never be able to play tennis again.
It was not until 2017 that her life started to turn around. With encouragement from her son, she agreed to a “revision amputation” resulted in a better fitting, pain free prosthesis. She joined the Dallas Amputee Network, a support group where she was able to connect with, and learn from, other amputees. Through the Adaptive Training Foundation she started working out with Hunter Clark, and he helped her start a training regimen - something she had not had since 2005. Sensation had returned to her left hand, she was feeling healthy, and her prosthesis fit comfortably.
“My goal is to make Adaptive Tennis inclusive and easily accessible for everyone”
She attended an Adaptive Sports Fair at University of Texas, Arlington, and discovered the Dallas Wheelchair Tennis Club.
“I attended a clinic and thought I should give wheelchair tennis a try, playing left-handed. After 12 years, it felt great to be on the court again!”
But without the use of her right arm, Nora was unable to maneuver the wheelchair. After several frustrating and unsuccessful tournaments, she was spotted by Cindy Benzon from USTA Texas, and Coach Julie Fritz from Indianapolis. They suggested she try Standing Adaptive, and Nora rediscovered her love for tennis.
In 2018 Nora played in the Indy Adaptive Stand-Up Open Tournament at Purdue University and the TAP Tournament in Houston.
“I got beaten pretty badly, but I loved it. It felt so good to be back in the game, and meet other adaptive tennis players,” she said.
In April of this year, she helped call matches for a one-day wheelchair tournament in Houston and was in Dallas the next day participating in the Rock-Roll event at Southern Methodist University. A week later, she competed in the Texas Regional Para Games in San Antonio. In September 2021, Moreno won her division at the Carolinas Adaptive Standing Tennis Tournament in North Carolina. Long term, she has her eye on the TAP Tournament in Japan in 2022.
Nora is an ambassador for Adaptive Tennis of every kind. During weekends she can be found organizing practice and teaching strokes at the Wagon Wheel Tennis Center with Carlos Turic and the Dallas Wheelchair Tennis Club. At every tournament and event she attends, she is looking to mentor, teach and encourage athletes. Her love of the game and her enthusiasm is contagious.
“My goal is to make Adaptive Tennis inclusive and easily accessible for everyone,” she said. “It is important to remember that the adaptive community faces a variety of health issues that make continuity of communication particularly important. An athlete may go off the radar for weeks, months, or even years. Keep sending them information. Keep them in the loop. Keep including them. Don't ever stop reaching out. They will come back. I did!”
Nora Moreno's StoryOctober 06, 2021From the heights of collegiate tennis success to injuries, depression and despair, and finally to the joy of giving back to the sport she loves, Nora Moreno has had an incredible tennis journey. Read More